Homelessness Harder On America’s Veterans
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, many fear the rates of homeless vets could grow much worse. They tend to remain homeless longer than non-veterans and they’re more likely to suffer from health conditions linked to early death, according to a recent survey by the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
PECK: The ones that we’re seeing, 100 percent of them are combat vets. So they have PTSD. And that really is what brought them down in the first place. And you add to that the fact that many of them don’t have job skills that will allow them to get into this workforce. Maybe they’re dislocated, they’ve discharged from someplace other than home.
Perhaps they don’t, for whatever reason, don’t want to go home, they want to be on their own, they want to be independent, and they find themselves in a city without resources, and then if that PTSD kicks in, it can lead to their becoming homeless.
CONAN: It can also contribute to substance abuse problems as they try to self-medicate.
PECK: Absolutely. Well over half of the guys that we encounter have substance-abuse problems. And we had a guy come into our program a couple years ago, and that guy named Greg(ph), whose father, a Vietnam vet, brought him in because Greg was having a real challenge reintegrating.
He had had a pretty significant combat experience in Afghanistan and lost a lot of friends over there, and kind of one incident really stuck with him. He was in a convoy and about to take off. He was in the lead vehicle of a convoy, and a friend of his wanted to trade places with him. So Greg moved about six vehicles back.
The convoy took off, and about 20 minutes later, an explosion rocked the front of that convoy, and his friend was killed. So he was wracked with guilt and why him and not me. And so that, coupled - that survivor’s guilt, which is not uncommon among combat veterans, combined with all the combat that he had seen led him to get hooked on methamphetamines because he didn’t want to go to sleep and experience the nightmares that he was experiencing as a result of his combat.
Some statistics from American Progress on homelessness among veterans:
50 percent: Rate at which veterans are more likely than other Americans to become homeless. The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
About 75,000: Number of veterans who are homeless on any given night, according to estimates from the Veterans Administration.
About 20,000: Number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were homeless in the past five years according to the Veterans Administration.
5.5 percent: Percentage of homeless vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the overall homeless population, according to the Veterans Administration.
For more on how you can help veterans, visit the organizations below dedicated to aiding the men and women of our armed forces and their families: