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JLeslie's avatar

What is your opinion about veterans who are homeless?

Asked by JLeslie (54558points) March 11th, 2011

For this question I am talking about new veterens from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanastan. I have read recently, and saw on Oprah, that many of our soldiers, when they leave the service, wind up homeless, and that it seems to be affecting women in large numbers, some being single parents.

I have an incredible amount of respect for our military men and women. I personally think their should be some sort of transition housing and support provided for those coming back from war, if there is not already, who choose to not renew their contract to serve.

But, what I wonder is if these people having a really tough time handeling the private sector, if they were from very poor families to begin with? If their communities they were raised in were extremely dysfunctional or difficient, and these soldiers have no idea what to do when not being told, and not having housing provided for them? Are they just going back to where they might have been, if they had not joined the military?

Of course we know the poor are sort of preyed upon to enlist, so that is why this question came to mind. I have never seen statistics regaring socio-economics of the people having a tough time prior to enlisting.

And, I recognize that some soldiers have some severe psychological difficulties and might add to their inability to adjust, but that is probably only oart of the equation.

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31 Answers

seazen_'s avatar

I cannot think, currently, of anything that saddens me more. I would dedicate my life to helping them stay warm and safe in the cold winter nights if I were there.

Taciturnu's avatar

I always have thought it was a tragedy. Not just for recent veterans, but all.

Seelix's avatar

I might get some flak for this, but I don’t think homeless veterans are any more important than any other homeless people. In a society where the few have more than they need and the many don’t have enough, homelessness and poverty is tragic regardless of one’s (former) occupation.

robdamel's avatar

I believe the government should definitely have a solution for this. Or maybe, a non-profit organization?

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I would question why they are homeless. They are paid while they are in the military. When they are deployed, they get paid even more. There really are not a lot of places to spend your money (unless you are ordering online) while you are deployed. I would question why they got out of the military if they had no back up plan.

There are those who do suffer from psychological problems which may contribute to the inability to function fully in society. If these were documented while they were still active duty, they should be receiving VA benefits. If they were undocumented for some reason, I believe they should be given assistance.

I do not feel the need to take responsibility for everyone in the world only those who cannot (not will not) take responsibility for themselves.

ETpro's avatar

Of course everyone who is homeless has a private story of heartbreak, whether they are there from mental illness, drugs, alsohol or just hard luck and not knowing how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But it is particularly heart wrenching to mewhen it is a veteran. It’s all the more so now, as my own son is currently serving in Afghanistan.

Too many of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD, often undiagnosed. I am sure that is contributing to the number that can’t figure out how to integrate back into civilian life and support themselves. I would like to see us doing more to eliminate homelessness in total, but we especially owe our veterans more than a quick “Thank you for your servece.”

tigerlilly2's avatar

@ETpro I agree completely that every homeless person is heartbreaking. Our country has so many opportunities compared to the rest of the world, no one should be without a home. That being said, veterans who serve our country should be able to find some kind of help after leaving war from the government because once you are a soldier in any branch you are always a soldier. It doesn’t end just because someone decides to discontinue their service. I have many veterans in my family including my father. When people are risking their lives to protect and defend our country, they are at least owed resources to help them prevent losing their homes.

JLeslie's avatar

The question is trying to figure out if the trajectory of these people is interupted by militay service, and then goes back on its path after leaving the service? Not that I think anyone should be destined to living in poverty, but I think you get what I am getting at?

I saw Oprah a couple of weeks ago with a former expert she used to have on weekly. The woman made millions during those years, and then lost everything. She said she was still poor minded, still thought she had to spend everything before the next check arrived. So, is it our fault if people who served in the military still think like they did after they get out, if they come from a poor background, or any background, but as individuals don’t know how to manage their money? I am not trying to paint all poor people with one brush, my father grew up extremely poor, and is a big saver and very successful in his career and financially. As @optimisticpessimist what are they doing with the money they earned?

And, does anyone have an opinion about woman getting pregnant and having children while serving? Does it matter if they are married or not?

@Seelix homelessness in America is very upsetting to me too, and I will go as far to say that even people who have a place to live, but live in extremely unsafe environments, in our poorer urban ghettos, saddens me greatly. Regardless if they served in the military or not.

zenvelo's avatar

As @ETpro and @tigerlilly2 have said, I think the differentiator is the psychological trauma of being in a war zone. You don’t hear of homeless vets who have served in Okinawa or Germany in non-combat duty, nor of air force vets who have served at 30,000 feet. It’s the men and women that have to endure the terror of a constant threat and seen their buddies destroyed.

One of our collective shames in the U.S. is the poor treatment and neglect of these warriors.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo I am all for helping those who have psychological trauma from being in warzones. In fact, I generally support social systems to care for all of our citizens who are mentally ill. These types of services have been overlooked too often by our government and citizens.

SpatzieLover's avatar

In my area, there are homeless vets. Most of them stay at the MRM or on the streets of the area.
In a way, even sadder are the vets that reside in tiny rooming houses around our VA center/hospital. They wait for their check to come in to be able to afford food, their minuscule shelter and spend the rest at the local pubs. Then spend a few days “drying out” at the VA.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I have to agree with @Seelix. I love our veterans tremendously, but I’m sad for all homeless people. The only time I have no sympathy is if they wound up homeless due to drugs or other addictions, and they do nothing to change.

12Oaks's avatar

There are quite a few homeless, or at least rightly poor, living here. I am attached to an organizing that, among other things, provides a free hot lunch for them every weekday. No strings attached. We never ask their former occupation and all are treated equally.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think it’s a clear example of how the government doesn’t give a crap about their vets or whomever they exploir for these unjust wars. I wouldn’t be saddened by vets’ homelessness more so than any other person’s homelessness, though.

wundayatta's avatar

They aren’t picking on vets. They’re picking on all homeless and all mentally ill. We could save a lot of money by caring for folks and helping them deal with their illness and trauma. Instead we cut budgets now, creating a much larger mess later. Unless of course, we just let them die.

Budget cutters say they have to cut budgets. No one can prove a direct connection between a cut budget and any individual death of a homeless or mentally ill person. So budget cutters can say with a straight face they aren’t causing harm. They’re creating jobs by giving money back to the private sector.

I think they are two-faced liars.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta Speaking of the attack on the mentally ill, check out this idiot’s ideas.

wundayatta's avatar

There are a lot of yahoos in State Legislatures, @Simone_De_Beauvoir. I think that guy’s mentally defective, and should volunteer to be the first one to walk to the gulag. I mean, it’s right in Palin’s back yard. He could stop and have barbecue on the way.

Kardamom's avatar

I think it’s shameful that the government allows veteran’s to be homeless, and for them not be able to get proper (and useful) treament for mental illness (because they’ve simply fallen through the cracks). There should be transitional housing and a lifetime of medical benefits for veterans, plus real job training and placement services for them when they come home.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

For those of you who may be unaware, the post 9/11 GI Bill pays for college or trade school (up to a certain dollar amount), a yearly book stipend, some tutoring services and an amount for housing (based upon their location.) The veterans do not have to pay into this plain like the Montgomery GI Bill. There are certain stipulations like having an honorable discharge. No, this does not help with mental or physical health, but there are a wide range of people we are discussing here including, but not limited to, those with physical or mental disability related to service in the military, those who come from dysfunctional, poor or no families, and those who choose not to use the options available to them.

There are those who have fallen through the cracks that this may not help. However, I hesitate to lump the entire veteran population into one huge category when many can make use of this and other programs available.

ETpro's avatar

@optimisticpessimist Unfortunately, not all our returning veterans are able to take advantage of that benefit. My son plans to use his to finish his Masters and perhaps get a doctorate. But Michael Harrington’s 1962 book, The Other America explains that there is a segment of our population who are left out of the advantages of living in the world’s number one economy. For that segment, the only industry that’s currently hiring is the drug trade.

The wealthiest 400 people in America today have more money than the 155 million who occupy the bottom 50% of our wealth scale. I am not at all against wealth. I own a small business and am trying to win my share of the American Dream. I salute all who have done so. But I can’t help feel we can do better as a nation than we have done so far. I have the nagging notion that there is a way we can build a society where there is no need for an Other America.

SincereNyc's avatar

It is very sad and interesting that there are veterans that come home and are “homeless”. I think that if government could install some sort of program, it does not have to be full fledged out accounting course, but something where the current military folks departing, could have a fundamental knowlege of how to manage their funds prior to departure. They would have set up some sort of nest and not have to be so reliant upon the government for assistance while making their transition back into society.

JLeslie's avatar

I would guess part of the current problem is a scarcity of jobs.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t want to see a program to just house those who can’t figure out how to house themselves. Rather, teach them how to take care of themselves. Before someone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, we have to make sure thay have a pari of boots.

augustlan's avatar

It really does seem to me that the least we can do for these folks is offer them some kind of transitional services. Civilian job training (which I gather we do some of), counseling for ALL returning combat vets (I’m sure they could all use it, not just the severely mentally impacted. Also, if everyone had to get it, it would remove the stigma that prevents many from asking for help), and maybe some kind of half-way housing.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@SincereNyc Financial classes and programs are already in existence.PFMP is one such program. Personal financial management classes are required at certain points (depending upon the branch of the military) including but not limited to pre-marriage, pre-deployment, post-deployment, during bootcamp, annually, and pre-separation. The biggest problem is most in the military are late teens or early twenties. They hear the classes but they are still young enough not the really see the relevance in their lives until they are in financial trouble. Most young service members live in the barracks, eat at the chow hall and have minimal required out of pocket expenses. They do become easy prey for scams, fraud and other unethical but not illegal practices which is in part why these classes became required.

@augustlan TAMP is another required class prior to separation. This does not include mental health but it does include transitioning from military to civilian life and these services, if I remember correctly, are available to all departing military for at least 180 days after separation. Mental health is also addressed.

I do not suggest that they should be just cut loose and left to flounder. I am illustrating there are programs and services in place. Do some slip through the cracks? Yes. Should they be helped? Yes. However, they are not just merely offered a piece of paper, a hand shake and “Thank you for your service.”

augustlan's avatar

@optimisticpessimist That’s good to know. Thanks.

SincereNyc's avatar

@optimisticpessimist- Thanks for the clarity on the programs. All hope cannot be lost to attempt at decreasing the influx of homelessness from these guys. I would think that the sector they chose to be in or were placed in, has lesson plans I a right, and it is assumed that the lesson plans get revised on a quarterly basis, so as to keep the information relevant? Basically I’m just saying that perhaps different tactics and strategies need to be re-issued / addressed so that the data taught is comprehended in a language that they may understand. Maybe once that is done, it could affect their tempermant and resistance to their ignorance of the reality occuring today.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@SincereNyc The lesson plans do get revised on situational as well as time sensitive basis (as in what is going on in the economy now). They are taught at many different levels from those needing to learn how to start and maintain checking and savings accounts to investing (as in what the different kinds of investments are available and what to look for and stay away from not actual product selling.) Additional classes are offered including but not limited to car buying, budgeting and smart spending habits. One on one or family counseling sessions are offered as well if they have specific questions, concerns, want a financial check-up (so to speak) or just want someone help create a budget.

I am sure just like in any teaching situation. You have adequate instructors and really good instructors. However, if a student is not interested in the subject at the time, all the instructor can do is try to motivate them and get them to see why it is relevant to them. Some get it and want to learn more; some just see they have plenty of money right now and are not interested.

SincereNyc's avatar

@optimisticpessimist- touche mon-ami, touche! :)

mattbrowne's avatar

I’ve recently watched a documentary on Israeli ex-soldiers traveling to Goa, India trying to escape the dreams that are haunting them. Some of them stay there and become sort of homeless.

If veterans had better psychological counseling fewer of them would end up homeless.

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