Homelessness in America is not a sight many like to witness. When we see homeless people panhandling on the streets, some people turn and look the other way, some give what change they have in their pockets and some pull their wallet out and give a few bucks. One situation I hate and strikes deeply in my heart is seeing homeless veterans. I can’t stand seeing these men and women when they sacrificed so much of themselves already, and yet have to resort to begging passing people for money.
The homeless veteran count is on the rise and there is no way to get an accurate count of how many are out there. The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates there is somewhere around 500,000 homeless veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are the two leading factors of why veterans become homeless. Alcohol and drug abuse are another top factor for homelessness. Roughly two-thirds of the homeless veteran population suffer from substance abuse problems and around half suffer from mental illness. Homeless veterans experience longer homelessness than non-veterans. Homeless veterans live on the street for roughly six years on average while non-veteran homeless men and women live on the streets for an average of four years.
91 to 94 percent of the homeless veteran population are male, and 98 percent of them are single. 39 percent of the homeless veterans are African-America or Hispanic, but of the veteran population, African American’s and Hispanics only make up 11 percent.
Homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Lebanon, Panama, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn (Iraq). It is estimated that on any given night there is 76,000 veterans sleeping on the streets, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Why are there so many homeless veterans compared to civilians?
Men and women returning from deployments face a greater number of obstacles than their civilian counterparts. They are at a higher risk because of PTSD, TBI, and sexual trauma while serving in the military. Females are also becoming more prominent in the homeless veteran community.
War brings a lot to one’s mind, the situation in itself is nerve-racking; for me, being outside the wire on a daily basis brought fear to my reality. Men and women die from IED’s, small arms fire, dangerous and sketchy terrain. They get injured, and then are given an opioid, which causes a 10 percent greater risk in becoming homeless. Veterans deal with a difficult return to the civilian life, the skills with weapons training cannot be easily applied to an office job. For me, being on a tank or Styker couldn’t be applied anywhere other than a government contractor job that would have forced me to move away from home yet again. Compounded together, PTSD, TBI, alcohol and drug abuse, not being able to find proper jobs because of the skill set we lack, causes a greater risk of veterans becoming homeless.
Why is our government spending so much money on refugees fleeing their country, waving their previous country’s flag around, demanding for the American social ideas to be like their old country’s ideas? If those ideals and style of government is what they want, then go back to the country you came from. Why are we spending millions if not billions on world aid and refugee camps, when the government has its previous defenders of the American way of life sleeping on the streets? Why are there not more homeless veteran shelters, or even just homeless shelters for all the men and women sleeping on the streets? Where are the government programs to help these people get off the street?
Education is powerful tool, we should be spending the money on helping these people by whatever means necessary to end homelessness. Take care of our home and its citizens before we take care of other country’s citizens. Homeless veterans, just as I did, wrote a blank check, up to and including one’s life, yet we cannot take care of our own, but rather help millions of other people around the world.