I read quite a number of news articles about homelessness each day.
Taking that into consideration, one would think that I’ve developed the proverbial "thick skin" and am able to deal with it on a purely intellectual level. That’s not always the case however. There are times when I read an article and it causes me a bit of emotional distress.
Such was the case yesterday.
I came across an article in The L.A. Times which reported that more and more Veterans of "recent wars" – Iraq and Afghanistan in particular – are finding themselves homeless.
Although I’m "intellectually aware" that there are literally hundreds of thousands of Veterans who are homeless, there was a bit of bittersweet poignancy to the article – especially considering that Independence Day is but a few days away.
The article began by telling of the personal struggles of one particular Veteran: Luis Pinto.
After his discharge, Mr. Pinto found himself struggling with the psychological traumas incurred while serving in Iraq. And, like so many other Veterans, found himself with an addiction disorder.
Five years later, he was homeless; sleeping in alleyways or in friends cars. He even attempted suicide this part March.
Mr. Pinto’s story of homeless and addiction disorder isn’t an uncommon one.
Yet, for decades our nation has failed to adequately address the issue of homelessness among Veterans. Funding for programs to effectively assist these wounded warriors re-integrate back into their communities has always been noticeably lacking.
Consequently, on any given night of the year, in excess of 100,000 Veterans are without shelter. They are forced to find public places to sleep. Some will dig through trash cans in order to find something to eat. And, sadly, some of them will die of exposure to the elements.
Although homelessness among Veterans has been receiving more notice in the media and among elected leaders; and even though there has been an increase of funding allocated toward helping them – it is still far from being enough.
There was one part of the article which I had to re-read a few times.
It had to do with an organization called New Directions.
Of various services they offer homeless Veterans, substance abuse treatment is one of them.
The organizations executive director, Toni Reinis, mentioned that in 2007 they offered substance abuse treatment to 12 Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans; 24 in 2008; and that so far this year, they’ve offered "treatment" to 20.
While those may not seem like large numbers, keep in mind that these are the numbers which have been helped by only one agency.
It’s difficult to know with absolute certainty how many homeless Veterans do not receive help for each one which does.
The article quoted Ms. Reinis as having said:
"I think we were doing well as far as vets from the last war were concerned. But we’ve got to start all over again.
I think that we’ve got another couple of years before we say it’s a crisis. We’re still on an uphill climb."
I don’t want to appear to be criticizing Ms. Reinis. I’m sure that her organization is doing the best they can with limited resources. But I do have to ask myself: just how many Veterans must become homeless before we consider it a crisis?
To me personally, one homeless Veteran is one too many.
It seems to me a sad state of affairs that, as a nation, we have yet to consider the growing numbers of homeless Veterans as being a national crisis.
I realize that our nation’s elected leaders have a lot on their plates right now, and are busy trying to re-vitalize the economy and so forth.
All the same, considering some of the ridiculous things they are spending taxpayer dollars on, how is it that they can’t seem to find a way to provide sufficient funding to help each and every one of our nation’s homeless Veterans?