A Small Price To Pay

Posted: November 11, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Government, Homelessness, Hunger, Morality, Veterans

One of the questions which showed up in the blog’s list of search inquiries a couple of days ago was:

"why should the government provide food for the homeless"

When I read it, I must have paused for a good ten minutes wondering what might have been in the mind of the person making the inquiry.  

In the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, our nation’s Founding Fathers gave six distinct reasons for the creation and adoption of the Constitution:

  • in Order to form a more perfect Union,
  • establish Justice,
  • ensure domestic Tranquility,
  • provide for the common defense,
  • promote the general Welfare,
  • and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

The word "welfare" is defined this way in the dictionary:

welfare (n)

  1. Governmental provision of economic assistance to persons in need
  2. Something that aids or promotes well-being
  3. A contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous

With all of that in mind, it would seem more than clear why the Government should provide food for the homeless – because doing so "promotes the general Welfare" of the nation.

Perhaps the most basic of reasons is simply that it’s the right thing to do. But, there are also other reasons, as well. For example –

Today is Veterans Day.

It is the day which has been set aside to honor those who have served this nation as part of its military. They are the ones who – as the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution words it – "provide for the common defense." Their service to this nation has given us the freedoms we all enjoy.

However, so many of this nation’s veterans have been forgotten. They have been overlooked by the very society which they have served to protect. Their personal sacrifices have been overshadowed because of their current social and residential status: they are homeless.

I’m sure that part of the reason these veterans are so often overlooked – and therefore not honored – is because of the many stereotypes regarding homelessness. In addition, the majority of American’s are unaware of how little is actually being done by the Government to help those veterans who do find themselves homeless.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Homeless Veterans,

"Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2006). 97% of those homeless veterans will be male (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008). The National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients reports that veterans account for 23% of all homeless people in America (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999)."

In short, 1 out of every 3 homeless men in America is a veteran. Yet, with the estimated 400,000 veterans who experience homelessness each year, only about 25% of them are being helped through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The remaining 300,000 are left to seek assistance through other agencies and organizations within their local communities.

On this day, when we honor those who have served to protect our freedoms, let’s keep in mind that some of them will not have a bed to sleep in tonight. Some of them may even go without a meal. That in itself is reason enough for the government to feed the homeless: because many of this nation’s homeless are veterans…

… and providing food to our nation’s homeless veterans is a small price to pay for the sacrifices they’ve made.

We owe them that – and more.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    It’s a hard pill to swallow when we see how governement has helped corporate America out of it’s financial troubles yet do nothing to get our Veterans off the streets of the nation that they served. Yet, on Veteran’s Day most of our homeless Veterans endured a day without shelter or a good meal.

    To the person who asked why we should provide food for the homeless I would like to ask..Why shouldn’t the government provide food for the homeless? Within the homeless population are many Vets who risked their lives for the welfare of all Americans. I think providing food is a small way to say thank you for their service.

    All our Veterans deserve to be honored and supported by America.

  2. Your site is without doubt the most compassionate and right on commentary on the plight of our nations homeless vets and others. Thank you for bringing your insights to our attention.

    Best wishes for the end to homelessness in America,

    Robert W. Gately
    Castle Creek, AZ

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