HOMELESS VETERANS CAN BECOME
PRODUCTIVE MEMBERS OF SOCIETY
Homelessness is a major social issue facing our society today. Homelessness among United States veterans is of particular concern to me because I understand some of the pressures facing vets upon returning to civilian life. Given the Iraq and Afghanistan tours and number of soldiers returning from multiple tours in “hell”, it’s no wonder the number of homeless vets has more than doubled in the past two years. (Zoroya, 2012) Serious measures need to be taken to save our “fallen soldiers” from the perils of a desperate life on the streets of America. We must first understand the life of homeless vets to draw valuable insight into why conventional attempts at solving this issue are fruitless. Our society needs to take ownership in working with State and Federal Government to implement successful solutions which produce positive results in eliminating homelessness among our veterans. Homeless female vets are often overlooked in current strategies and we need to take this fact into consideration and develop appropriate solutions for the forgotten gender. Finally, restoring vets to a productive role in society is an ongoing process and requires more than putting a transitional roof over their heads and revolving door rehab treatment.
The number of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who are homeless or risk losing the roof over their heads is increasing as more of these soldiers return home. Through the end of September, 26, 531 of these vets were living on the streets. (Zoroya, 2012) These numbers could be even higher because it only represents the number staying in temporary housing or receiving federal vouchers to pay rent as noted in Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports. (Zoroya, 2012). There were more than 62,600 homeless veterans according to data from January 2012 released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Paralyzed Veterans of America, 2013). Author of Hope for Lost Vets sums this statistic up perfectly in saying “even one veteran without safe and stable housing is one too many.” (Paralyzed Veterans of America, 2013)
First step in solving a problem is understanding why the problem exists. An autobiographical depiction of one veteran’s struggle with homelessness provides valuable insight into understanding this social dilemma. Homeless in the City: A Veteran Describes the Decade He Has Spent Living on the Streets is written by Theodore Walther. The author spent over 10 years living on the streets of a small city on the outskirts of Los Angeles. I could see myself falling into this fellow soldier’s plight if not for the emotional support of my family and financial security of a military pension. Walther describes homelessness on various levels such as short-term which can be a result of divorce, loss of job, financial hardship, or death of a loved one. According to Walther, these people continue to participate and function in society to the best of their abilities. Walther categorizes himself as chronically homeless or long-term. Walther’s journey into the streets began with him selling everything and going into rehab. He was self-medicating with alcohol to deal with his demons resulting from his tour of duty. He thought rehab would turn his life around and he would once again be a productive member of society. Obviously, rehab was too short and did not resolve the issues responsible for his drinking problem. This was the start of his homelessness adventure which lasted 10 years. Walther provides an inside opinion of the broken social services system society has in place to handle the problem of homelessness. For example, Walther states, “When I saw the sheer numbers of men and women going through these rehab centers just as I was, without a clue as to what was really happening to them, I realized how hopelessly broken this “world of recovery” really is. It’s a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.” (Walther,...