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How Can We Prevent Veterans From Being Homeless?

| November 8, 2013 | 43 Comments
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Photo by Matthew Woitunski

Homeless vet on the streets of Boston, photo by Matthew Woitunski


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #DoNowVets

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Do Now

How can we prevent veterans from being homeless? Whose responsibility is it to help them?

Introduction

Homelessness is not simply a person without a place to sleep at night. As Steve Peck, CEO of U.S. Vets writes in his article in the Huffington Post, “homelessness is the end result of a whole series of events that result in diminished capacity, loss of self-determination, most often loss of employment, loss of family, isolation, poverty, and lack of self-esteem, all leading to inability to pay for housing.”

Since the mid-eighties our country has seen a growth in homelessness. Peck notes, “To the surprise of some, veterans have been part of this unfortunate minority; surprise because these men and women are part of an American military alternately described as ‘warriors’ and ‘heroes.’”

Although it is difficult to determine a completely accurate number as the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness, and about 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Homeless veterans continues to be an issue during the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans claims that homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Conversely, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50. The number of young homeless veterans is increasing, but only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population.

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.

Resource

RobBlissCreative video Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation
U.S. Army Veteran Jim Wolf has struggled with alcoholism, poverty, and homelessness for decades. But in September 2013, he agreed to go through a physical transformation. Rob Bliss, a local filmmaker, teamed up with Degage Ministries, a stylist, and a production team to create this timelapse video of Wolf’s several-hour makeover. “The homeless are people we ignore every day,” Bliss said. And so he wanted his video to show how, with just a little support, anyone “can look like they’re meant for the cover of GQ.” It’s hard not to gasp at the end result.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowVets

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

PBS NewsHour Extra lesson plan The Greatest Sacrifice- A Lesson Plan for Veterans Day
This 4 part lesson plan that focuses on Veteran’s Day, contains a warm up activity, videos, interactive timelines and maps, a main activity, and a writing prompts that are all aligned to Common Core Standards.

San Jose Mercury News post Bills to help California’s Homeless Vets Signed into Law
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills Thursday aimed at helping veterans, including legislation that could provide funds to expand affordable housing to combat homelessness among former service members.

Isaac Goeckeritz’ docucmentary film Street Vets
Over 100,000 United States Veterans are homeless every year. In a powerful, one-hour documentary, filmmaker Issac Goeckeritz takes viewers into the largely invisible world of homeless veterans and the difficult, but hopeful, pathways home. This film aired on KUED in January 2011.

KQED QUEST radio segment Can Meditation Ease PTSD in Combat Vets?
Among veterans, mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder are epidemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one in every four Iraq or Afghanistan vets is suffering from PTSD.


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Category: Do Now, Do Now: Government and Civics

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About the Author ()

Matthew Williams is a filmmaker and media educator who has recently transplanted to Oakland from Los Angeles. He believes that you are what you eat and feels everyone should have a multitude of dietary options for self-realization. Matthew is the Educational Technologist at KQED.
  • RemiK

    I believe that if we sponser more fundraisers to at least give these homeless veterans a clean look and professional clothes it can really change their lives and give them a job

  • Brent C

    It is employers’ responsibilities to hire Veterans that are qualified for jobs that those employers are offering. Vets often have skills and character traits that ordinary Americans just do not, and often this can help them in their jobs. Business owners need to raise awarness of the tribulations that vets go through, and when they are hired for jobs, they can stay off the streets.

  • Nick s

    I think that homelessness is a huge problem wether it’s a vet or not, but it does become a little more severe when it’s a vet because they are people that have served out country and we repay them by not helping them out by providing a home

  • adugan

    In a PBS video on veteran’s experience, one woman suggests a program in which veterans serve other veterans. I think the lack of support networks plays a major role in homelessness and substance abuse problems many vets face. Having a community in place for returning men and women would greatly help this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16-74ga0D8M

  • Nick M

    Veterans do have several skills that could be advantageous when looking for a job, but they might not be aware of the resources out there to aid them. While benefits for veterans should and are expanding, so many veterans are missing out on resources already available. According to an article by Terry Savage in the Huffington Post, “There are roughly 23 million living Veterans.” Of those veterans, “more than 70 percent of our younger veterans have yet to take advantage of this low, fixed-rate 30-year mortgage — currently 4 percent (4.273 percent APR) with a ZERO down payment.” The GI Bill “provides up to 36 months of education benefits — including full tuition and fees for in-state students, paid directly to the accredited college.” And the medical benefits are phenomenal (which for veterans remain unaffected by the Affordable Care Act) through which most veterans receive free health care.
    There is still a lot of work that need be done, but helping expose veterans to the numerous opportunities available can make a tremendous impact.

  • Abbie M.

    According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2009, there were 23 million homeless veterans and that number has only increased in the past four years. To help decrease the number of homeless veterans, the US Department of Veterans Affairs should establish a mandatory program for all returning veterans that encourages an environment where they can discuss and seek help for emotional traumas, learn transferable skills to find a sustainable job, and programs for physically, emotionally, and psychologically damaged soldiers that aids them in treatment. By making this a mandatory program, veterans would have a very accessible aid in getting used to life outside of combat.

  • iromano

    “Homelessness is the end result of a whole series of events that result in diminished capacity, loss of self-determination, most often loss of employment, loss of family, isolation, poverty, and lack of self-esteem, all leading to inability to pay for housing.” This statement should not describe United States Service Veterans, men and women who quite literally sacrificed their lives for millions of people they will never meet, but still thousands of veterans find themselves with nothing. War takes an incredible toll on veterans both mentally and physically. Women are particularly effected, as over 25% experience sexual trauma at some point in their service. These women suppress their experience of war and sexual assault for years, and due to their experiences are at higher risk for both PTSD and homelessness. Women veterans often feel threatened by male-dominated veteran organizations, and thousands of service-women are sexually assaulted by their own superiors. We need to create a network of support for these women. It is our responsibility to care for our own – men and women who we, in part, owe our safety to. Both the government and the populace of this country must ensure veterans are given the mental and physical care they need. Us regular folks will never understand the toll war can take on a human being.

  • Jae Hun

    I think the employers are the one`s that should be responsible for it, since they are the one`s who employed them. We could sponsor more fundraisers for veterans and give more job opportunities to them.

  • Jasmine Masih

    I think that homelessness in general is a problem. For someone to serve our country and be a veteran is really sad. These men and women give their all and put their life on the line to protect our country and they don’t even get a proper shelter. It is really sad! Luckily, there are programs that are helping homeless veterans. http://richmondconfidential.org/2013/11/11/program-helps-homeless-veterans-find-shelter/
    These programs help to restore my faith in humanity. You must not lose faith in humanity. In the words of Gandhi: “Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

  • Alex M

    We are very aware of the physical, mental, and emotional toll that war takes on people, so we need to be more prepared for it. Returning veterans should be much more supported, people who sacrifice themselves for millions of others should never go through homelessness. Just like there are programs where ex-convicts can get jobs, there should be something similar to veterans. We also need to focus more on treatment for vets with PTSD and other mental problems so they can be mentally fit, which will greatly benefit their ability to get a job and support themselves. Veterans of our country deserve much better treatment and opportunities than they receive currently.

  • Caroline P

    Homelessness in veteran populations seems to go unnoticed. Prior to this article, I had heard of little to no media coverage on this issue. After returning from war, our veterans deserve anything but a lack of a home. Women and men come back to the United States mentally and physically battered. This mental and physical exhaustion can cause of series of problems from PTSD to drug abuse. Our nation cannot leave these veterans alone. We must create some sort of a support system to aid their recovery process. Whatever it takes to help these veterans return to normalcy is necessary.

    • Vagari

      Amen my friend. I help out with V.O.A. but I still feel it’s not enough, I met a vet with one leg and PTSD the other day, I found him because he was screaming in his sleep how his leg was blown off by a mine, it made me physically sick. If veterans only get a welcome home ceremony when they come home in coffins, what do our veterans who our dead inside get?

  • Rebecca

    I feel like homelessness is definitely an issue, especially with veterans. I also feel like very few people are trying to help.

  • Nylah

    To help our veterans we should raise money for them and open shelters because they did a favor for us.

  • Adrian A.

    The government should provide the veterans with food and shelter after their service

  • Anthony N.

    Give the veterans money and housing because, they put their life on the line for us. So, good things for good people.

  • Matt M

    I believe not only the citizens, but also the government should help the US veterans. Their should be more fund raisers, and more opportunities to help them make money, and get their lives together.

  • Guest

    Lel

  • Michael Angelo Batio

    #Obamacare

  • Tiffany Y.

    After serving for our country, they come back home not having honor wait for them, but poverty and homelessness waiting for them. For people who have done such great service to our country, they deserve to get enough housing and aid. To prevent more homelessness from happening to veterans, we should use the money that already goes to veterans more wisely.

    • Vagari

      I couldn’t agree more. This hits me especially hard because my grandpa was a veteran and he almost lost his home, he only didn’t because he died. But the thing I was most inspired by is that he told me he would do it all over again for his country. My point being, if he was so loyal, why can’t the people of this country do something for those loyal soldiers?

  • JAVIER NUNEZ

    We can donate stuff to them and The government help is needed ,its their responsibility or else we cant alone , government can provide food and shelter .

    • Vagari

      True we could, but would this be enough? There are many groups who do things for homeless people, vets included, yet it’s not enough, what can we do to make these programs more effective?

  • TA^2

    With all of the homeless veterans in the country, it upsets me greatly that this is not a greater issue. They have served our country to preserve our freedom, only to come home and end up with nothing. These veterans often come home with disorders that impair their ability to function in society. In order to solve this problem, we should create a program that helps to readjust the veterans to everyday life and give them help in order to address their physical and mental disabilities. We can also build shelters that are tailored to the needs of these disabled veterans. Once these issues have been addressed, then we can start to help them find jobs and become productive members of society.

  • Henry L.

    I think that when veterans come back from serving, our country should meet them with a future. They should be supplied with a fulfilling education that would have been desired before they went to defend. Then, they would find a suitable job and be able to support themselves. I think that the government should give veterans a big scholarship or a full ride to college because veterans risk their lives to protect us and they deserve to be happy.

    • Vagari

      Deserve, yes, but it’s not that easy, the cost alone would be astronomical and to meet them taxes would most likely have to be raised. While I’m all for your idea, it is very complex, our veterans our worth it, but the question is, how many think so?

  • Julia

    We think that the Homeless Veteran Transformation is a very good thing. It helps us to make sure that people who served our country in war are taken care of and given the treatment and opportunities they deserve. This program helps to turn veteran’s lives around and gives them the treatment they may not otherwise receive. There should be more programs like this extended to other groups of homeless veterans everywhere. It’s a great thing. – Connor, Julia, and Annisa

  • Tommy+Mario

    We feel that since they risked their lives to keep us safe and free. The people should repay them by helping them have a good life in our country the helped protect. Some ways we can help them is setting up shelters for veterans to just put a roof over their head and get some food in their belly.We could make a charity for homeless veterans to provide for these American Heroes.They served for our country now our country should help them out.

  • Quanisha

    Honestly i really dont care about no verterans being homeless they choose to go to war that was not need we are fighting for no reason and cause they lefted everything they had is no one problem but theres so o well

  • Katrina O’Brien

    They can prevent veterans from being homeless by still letting them fight for us or they can always help them self by asking and getting help!!

  • Christian Ross

    We can prevent them from being homeless by making sure when they get out of the army, navy, marines, etc…. that they have every single benifit there is because at the end of the day their the ones who fought for our country the reason why we are still standing as a nation today.

  • Mills

    I think that to prevent US veterans from becoming homeless the Govt. should set up trade schools for veterans to give them the skills necessary to getting some sort of job that will put them on their way.

  • R-Dawg

    I think that the government should help our veterans because they fought wars to protect and serve our country. We should create shelters to put a roof over their heads and help them get back on track. There should also be programs to help them find a job, like a career center.

  • Josh

    To keep Veterans out of poverty we should come up with a funded program by people or the government. It would give them some money to get them on their feet after defending our country.

  • Ricky L.

    I think that there should definitely be a federal aid program for veterans. All of them have risked their lives for this country, and many suffer from problems such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after returning from combat. To come back to the country they love, and find that they have no home/job is the ultimate insult. Perhaps the American people could fund that veteran program with taxes – and that program could include benefits like funding for education (many young veterans not only have no home, but no money to pay for college), job-finding, and even temporary places to live until they have enough income to pay for their own place. I think that a government-sponsored program for veteran aid would greatly alleviate this problem.

  • kymiga

    We need to give the veterans something in return for serving our country and putting their lives on the line. They are left out to dry when they’ve been gone for 2-6 years protecting the government they fought for. They should give them money and a place to live before they get back on their feet. I don’t think they should live off the government but I also believe that if you send someone else out there to fight for millions of Americans back home, you should give them an opportunity to succeed when they come back. Their choice to go to war for us was indeed their choice but they are also fighting to keep you safe and keep the wars overseas and not fight them over here.

  • Josh Erik and Dustin

    In our opinion I think it is the US government’s obligation to keep our veterans, who keep us the free and the brave off the street and out of poverty. They can start by getting the current president that we elected out of office and get a better man in. Impeachment on the grounds of ruining the country would probably be enough. Then we can have the government set up houses and centers to help our vets out of poverty because for all the things they have done for us, we should give back to them recently went to a public sporting event where the national anthem was played at the beginning. That is customary in this country correct? As I looked around the stadium many people still had hats on and weren’t even standing. This made me very angry and displeased with how this country has come to behave in the recent years. We believe that it is the governments duty and obligation to keep our vets off the streets and employed.

  • Ram

    I think that the government should help our veterans because they fought wars to protect and serve our country. We should create shelters to put a roof over their heads and help them get back on track. There should also be programs to help them find a job, like a career center.

  • kevin garcia

    the veterans should be given some kind of housing when they finish serving the US

  • kevin garcia

    that the government provides

  • John McGlinn

    Of course we should do our best to help homeless veterans, just as we should do our best to help any of our nations heroes in their time of need. Given the statistic of the ratio of veterans who are in poverty or homeless, it is apparent that our current system is just not good enough. However, given the recent government shutdown and the massive, crushing debt that our country is in, as well as the recent “Recession”(actually a depression, but apparently the worst economic times in our country since the Great Depression only are a recession.) the funds to provide a more stable and beneficial environment are just not there. Unfortunately, until our economy has recovered more fully, it appears our hands are tied. If the government could cut out some of their egregious excess spending to help the veterans, that would be fantastic. However, it is unlikely that any of the fat cats in politics will skimp a little off the top of their pensions for the veterans, until the government is in a more stable state, I do not see a way for anyone to help these veterans, aside from donating through the appropriate channels.
    All respect to the Veterans intended, I have nothing but respect for what they do, but I do not see a way for the government to help them until the debt is at least slightly more manageable.

  • Nick V

    While this would be expensive please take a minute to consider
    -

    The article states, “41% are between the ages of 31 and 50
    [homeless veterans].” This means that homelessness is a slower problem for a large percent (41%). Also, it affects relatively older service men and women. If veterans were given housing assistance for longer periods, enough to get back on their feet and find a stable job and household, I believe that they would be more likely to stay in that financial state. va.gov says “The Veteran then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program,” meaning the veteran still pays some amount of money, in some cases too much for them to handle.

  • Brandon C

    The biggest problems I can see is the PTSD from serving on the front lines as well as the lack of applicable skills they have after leaving the military. Perhaps the best thing to do would be some anger management classes or free consultations with a therapist after being discharged. Then perhaps there could be an option for a four year scholarship to a nearby university to learn some peacetime skills. This could help with the socialization issues many soldiers face as well as the problems with integration, giving veterans a boost back into normal society.