Did You Know?
The most recent Global Homeless Reports estimated that there are more than over 100 million homeless people worldwide. In America alone, it is estimated that these numbers range between 1.6 million and 3.5 million. Due to the transient nature of the homeless population, exact counts by state or community are not available and estimates are based on data available from a number of sources. It is also estimated that 11% of the total homeless population is made up of adult Veterans.
Based on reports and data from The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, it is estimated that over 39,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
Once a veteran gives his or her life over to combat, their life perspective, mind, and emotions change, sometimes for the worst. — Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC
Who Are These Homeless Men And Women?
These are men and women that served in the American Armed forces during:
- World War II
- Korean War
- Cold War
- Vietnam War
- Persian Gulf War
- Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF)
It is also estimated that nearly 50% of these homeless veterans served America during the Vietnam War.
A cohort study collecting data on 310,685 individuals who served in the military from 2005 to 2006 reported a five-year homeless incidence at 3.7 percent after leaving the military. That same study identified the strongest predictors of homelessness as military pay grade, substance abuse, and being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. — Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.
Everyone Has Their Own Story
There are a number of reasons that influenced how these men and women end up being part of America’s homeless statistics. These include:
- Skills learned while serving in the military aren’t transferable into the US civilian workforce
- Mental Health Disorders such as Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and more. Although there are a number of resources available in terms of therapy and someone to talk to, accessing these resources is often not simple in terms of accessibility etc
- Physical limitations and disabilities
- Substance abuse
Each and every one of these men and women have their own story. Joe’s Story is one that will remind us that these people are soldiers who are proud. Many returned with physical and emotional wounds and rather battle the difficulty and challenges of being homeless than accept handouts.
Many PTSD symptoms are thought of as “typical” reactions to overwhelming events, but what separates a “typical” reaction from PTSD is the intensity and persistence of the symptoms; for example, they often get worse, rather than better with time. PTSD can severely interfere with normal life functioning such as the ability to hold down a job or maintain healthy relationships with friends and family, which can result in an increased risk of homelessness. — Robert T Muller Ph.D.
Let’s Not Forget Why We Should Remember Them
“Sitting in front of my fireplace, basking in it’s warm glow gives me time to reflect upon the sacrifices that it has taken for me to enjoy the security of a good home, in a safe environment. I can hear the soft whisper of the snow as it caresses my window and covers the ground outside in a scintillating display of sparkling lights under the full moon.
How many times have our service men and women watched this same scene from a foxhole, or camped in some remote part of the world. Thankful for the silence of that moment, knowing it won’t last long. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He/she dresses in fatigues and patrols the world restlessly, ensuring that we can have this peaceful night.
Every day they give us the gift of this lifestyle that we enjoy, and every night they watch over us. They are warriors, angels, guardians, friends, brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, forming a family that stretches back to the beginning of the country. So tonight when you go to bed say a prayer that God watch over those who watch over us, and thank them for their sacrifices, on and off the battlefield.
Pray that they have a peaceful night, and will be home soon with their families who also share their burden. Without them we would not have this moment.” ― Neil Leckman
What Can I Do?
- Start in your own community and see what projects or programs there are to aid homeless veterans. Speak to local churches, soup kitchens, and shelters.
- Take the time to share a meal with one of these veterans, you can also arrange for meal tickets with a local diner. You can also take the time to make up a plate for holidays such as Thanksgiving.
- Volunteer your time and resources.
- Research agencies and coalitions and make inquiries about how you an assist with homeless veterans
- Donate to veteran organizations and charities
Give these men and women a voice. Enquire about becoming a Veterans Advocate.