Our National Disgrace
There is some good news, and there is some bad news.
The good news: a few Cities and States have actually reduced the number of homeless Veterans in their population.
The bad news: Most Cities, States, and the Federal Government are still wrestling with solving this problem and coming up with figures that reflect the number of homeless Veterans more accurately. In fact, each and every article I read about this subject quotes drastically different numbers for the same statistical categories.
If you can get past the numbers game, it helps to focus on the root cause and basic solution to this problem. The cause of Veteran homelessness comes from the very people who made them Veterans in the first place; our Federal Government - most notably the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The solution entails directing these Agencies to step up and honor their promises to our Military Men and Women, especially when they are now summarily “kicked to the curb” after fulfilling their Military obligations.
Because the Department of Defense sees fit to neglect the future civilian needs of their retiring ranks, far too many Enlisted and Officer Personnel end up re-entering society without the proper tools to lead decent lives. These Men and Women, who have put their lives on the line for our continued freedom, deserve:
1) to be fully enrolled in the Veterans medical system
2) fully compensated for any/all disabilities that are Service related
3) a pro-rated pension
4) a place to live
5) jobs where necessary
6) legal and financial education and advice
7) full family benefits including medical and mental health, and be
granted these benefits for life.
All before they step foot out of the Military and back into civilian life. And, this is just a cursory list of what we, as a Nation, owe those who fight for us. After all, our Military Personnel are our original “First Responders”! By enacting a meaningful Mandatory Military Separation Transition Program problems of homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicides, and distrust of the Government will be so greatly diminished that we won’t need to have this discussion ever again.
Hand in hand with a true Transition Program comes the much needed overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs; most notably the Veterans Health Administration. The current state of the VHA is such that only a small percentage of Veterans dare enter the doors of a VA Medical Center, or Facility. The reasons for that have been well documented and apparently, nobody wants to lift a finger to fix it. Granted, it is not an easy task, but all the necessary parts currently exist to reform this Agency into the best it could possibly be.
Having said all the above, let’s close this out with a look at all those conflicting numbers mentioned at the start. This list was glommed from an internet search on the subject, and all this information is published in the public domain. Simply type in “Homeless Veterans” in your search engine and you will get the same confused maze of statistics I got.
I. HUD - in 2010 they counted 75,000 homeless Veterans. They claim that number had shrunk to 40,000 in August 2016. Another 2016 statistic from HUD claims that there are 39,471 homeless Veterans on any given night in the Country.
II. HUD/VASH - claims to have granted over 90,000 rent vouchers to homeless Veterans in the same time span.
III. New Mexico - claims to have reduced their homeless Veteran population from 1,000 to 115 from 2015 to present. Note: I have been to Albuquerque lately and I witnessed substantially more than 115 homeless Veterans in that City alone.
IV. Los Angeles - has a proposal to build 10,000 units for homeless Veterans. Apparently, they feel they have the need for that many and can fill them all.
V. Chicago - claims to have housed 3,000 homeless Veterans in 2015 and claims they have only 650 more to go.
VI. The VA - claims their homeless numbers are somewhere between 76,000 and 50,000. In the next sentence they claim to have served 92,000 in 2009. In the next sentence they claim there are an estimated 500,000 homeless Veterans and they have taken care of 100,000. They somehow call that a 20% success rate????? You do the math...........
VII. VA - claims that 83,170 Veterans were homeless in 2015, and they take care of 262,000 homeless Veterans every year. They also place a lot of
responsibility on private non-profit organizations (VSO’s) to pick up the slack and do the job the VA is tasked with in their Mission Statement.
Now that eyes are crossed, take a breath and re-read I. - VII. Slowly compare/contrast the numbers here. You will soon appreciate that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing. The numbers are all over the place. Somewhere within these misrepresentations is the true story. I will venture a guess that the VA is not the Agency, or entity, that should be tasked with data collection on this subject. The States are more likely better equipped to gather this data and consolidate the numbers into a realistic representation of Homeless Veterans in this Country.
I need to close with the statement:
“The words homeless and Veteran should never appear in the same sentence.”
*Your comments on this subject will be greatly appreciated!