Veterans Day. Veterans Day. Veterans Day. On this day people across the globe collectively commemorate those men and women who’ve served their nations’ interests in uniform. People who’ve completely abandoned their lives, cast aside personal safety and security, left families behind, and some making the ultimate sacrifice to serve their countries. On this day there is nary a dispute as to assigning due honor to our brave soldiers. We quarrel and disagree as to the various missions our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, siblings, etc. are thrust into, yet we unanimously respect our soldiers nonetheless. Americans honor the 48 million men and women – including America’s 23 million living Veterans – who have served our Nation in uniform. Our soldiers, sacrificing as they do, are deserving of our compassion, our respect, and our care. As a reminder and proclamation of commitment of our duties owed our brave veterans, our eloquent President has issued the following statement:
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (2009)
We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. From the Minutemen who stood watch over Lexington and Concord to the service members whoserved in Iraq and Afghanistan, American veterans deserve ourdeepest appreciation and respect. Our Nation’s servicemen and women are our best and brightest, enlisting in times ofpeace and war, serving with honor under the most difficultcircumstances, and making sacrifices that many of us cannotbegin to imagine. Today, we reflect upon the invaluablecontributions of our country’s veterans and reaffirm ourcommitment to provide them and their families with theessential support they were promised and have earned.
Read entire address
Although, on this day, we all seem to offer our respect to these men and women, I am always a bit confused. Pardon my tangential line of thought, but this day often reminds me of the Holiday season. Come Thanksgiving and through Christmas the U.S. seems teeming with tidings of joy, sharing, well wishing, etc. The shift is dramatic. All of a sudden the feel-good commercials grace our television screens, reminding us to help those less fortunate. Soup kitchens become well staffed. Donation centers of all sorts hire staff to handle the influx of goods. I’m always curious as to the whereabouts of compassion outside of this season. The same applies to ceremonial holidays such as Veterans Day.
I lived a great deal of my life transient. I don’t say this for sympathy, or to taut my accomplishments or perseverance. Alternating my childhood and early adulthood between incarceration and homelessness I’ve come to see the quality of man, or lack thereof most times. I know well the feeling of the 24 hours a day grind of what am I going to eat? where will I sleep? why don’t people look at me when they toss change in my cup? why do they step over me when I’m too tired to sit or stand and am cheek to the concrete come sunshine or rain? why hasn’t anyone ever asked me my name? if I went to college? do I have children? a wife? parents? WHY AM I NOT A HUMAN BEING TO THEM? My journey has blessed me with having the opportunity to interact with many veterans. Homeless veterans. VETERANS WHO HAVE NO PLACE TO LIVE, EAT, SLEEP, SHOWER. I’ve listened to the stories of Vietnam vets, how they put everything on the line. Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea. I was told as a child that I had no place in the armed forces of the United States of America. I was taught not to put my life on the line for a country that acted opposite my well-being. I never so much as considered it. But I’ve met hundreds that took that ultimate leap of faith in their country. Proud to American kind of folks. A number of them are on the streets today with the Stars and Stripes displayed on their persons. Legless, armless, blind… forgotten… but flying that flag proudly. I’ve received a lot of flack for this, but it always disgusted me, and I let it be known to a lot of them. I didn’t understand how they could tap into this, apparently infinite source of Patriotism, and beg for quarters from a nation unwilling to make eye contact. G-d bless them though. G-d bless them. The following is how I pay homage to our nation’s veterans:
Homeless Veteran Fact Sheet
DEFINITIONS, DEMOGRAPHICS AND ESTIMATED NUMBERS
What is the definition of homeless?
PL100-77, signed into law on July 22, 1987, and known as the “McKinney Act,” provided a definition of homelessness that is commonly used because it controls the federal funding streams.
Excerpt from PL100-77: Sec. 11302:
“General definition of homeless individual
(a) In general
For purposes of this chapter, the term ‘homeless’ or ‘homeless individual or homeless person’ includes–
1. an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
2. an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is–
A. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
B. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
C. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
Who is a veteran?
In general, most organizations use the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with type and length of military service. To see details of eligibility criteria for VA compensation and benefits, view the current benefits manual at http://www1.va.gov/opa/feature/.
Demographics of homeless veterans
“The Forgotten Americans-Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve” — released Dec. 8, 1999, by the Interagency Council on the Homeless — is the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC), which was completed in 1996 and updated three years later. You can visit http://www.huduser.org/ and download the NSHAPC reports.
Veteran Specific Highlights:
23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
45% help finding job
37% finding housing
How many homeless veterans are there?
Accurate numbers community-by-community are not available. Some communities do annual counts; others do an estimate based on a variety of factors. Contact the closest Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Homeless Coordinator or the office of your mayor or other presiding official to get local information.
The Urban Institute, in conjunction with the 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC), expressed the following:
2.3 million to 3.5 million people experience homelessness in America each year. By taking 23 percent of that range, that would indicate there are between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans who are homeless at some point during the year.
To get the full “Helping America’s Homeless” report published by The Urban Institute Press in 2001, visit http://www.urban.org/.
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In January 2000, The Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following are highlights of the report, “Veterans in Prison or Jail”:
Over 225,000 veterans held in Nation’s prisons or jails in 1998.
- Among adult males in 1998, there were 937 incarcerated veterans per 100,000 veteran residents.
- 1 in every 6 incarcerated veterans was not honorably discharged from the military.
- About 20% of veterans in prison reported seeing combat duty during their military service.
- In 1998, an estimated 56,500 Vietnam War-era veterans and 18,500 Persian Gulf War veterans were held in State and Federal prisons.
- Nearly 60% of incarcerated veterans had served in the Army.
- Among state prisoners, over half (53%) of veterans were white non-hispanics, compared to nearly a third (31%) of non-veterans; among Federal prisoners, the percentage of veterans who were white (50%) was nearly double that of non-veterans (26%).
- Among State prisoners, the median age of veterans was 10 years older than other prison and jail inmates.
- Among State prisoners, veterans (32%) were about 3 times more likely than non-veterans (11%) to have attended college.
Veterans are more likely than others to be in prison for a violent offense but less likely to be serving a sentence for drugs.
- About 35% of veterans in State prison, compared to 20% of non-veterans, were convicted of homicide or sexual assault.
- Veterans (30%) were more likely than other State prisoners (23%) to be first-time offenders.
- Among violent State prisoners, the average sentence of veterans was 50 months longer than the average of non-veterans.
- At year-end in 1997, sex offenders accounted for 1 in 3 prisoners held in military correctional facilities.
- Combat veterans were no more likely to be violent offenders than other veterans.
Veterans in State prison reported higher levels of alcohol abuse, lower levels of drug abuse, than other prisoners.
- Veterans in State prison were less likely (26%) than other State prisoners (34%) to report having used drugs at the time of their offense.
- Nearly 60% of veterans in State prison had driven drunk in the past, compared to 45% of other inmates.
- About 70% of veterans, compared to 54% of other State prisoners, had been working full-time before arrest.
- Incarcerated veterans were as likely as non-veterans to have been homeless when arrested.
Information taken from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV)