On this Veterans Day, I thought I’d write about why I think ending homelessness for veterans is so important, and really is achievable. I am not a veteran. I don’t have any family members who were veterans. And most of my friends aren’t veterans either.
And yet, I’m outraged that even a single veteran is homeless tonight, and I’d like our country to keep on the task of doing something about that. We know a lot about homeless veterans – honestly we’ve probably spent more time studying the issue than we need to. But let’s throw out the numbers, statistics, and data, and just get right down to some common sense – every veteran who is homeless today, whether they served in wartime or during a period of peace, has served the country. And each one now needs the country to help them. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get going.
It might surprise you to learn that we already are. There are 75,000 homeless veterans today, down from more than 100,000 a few short years ago. Unlike with other homeless populations, and even with recent wars resulting in more homeless veterans, veterans homelessness is going in the right direction. We’re giving apartments to 10,000 veterans a year (sometimes including a veteran with a spouse and / or children), and housing thousands more with short term help until they get back on their feet – veterans are very resilient. And happily, though we aren’t all the way there yet, fewer and fewer new veterans are becoming homeless as prevention efforts ramp up.
While government is stepping up to help homeless veterans, we could do more. Apartments for 10,000 vets a year? $75 million. A drop in the bucket even in this time of concern over deficits. Why not double that? Or triple it. It would probably mean one less missile for the Department of Defense. But something tells me they’ve got extra. And after all, they created much of the problem, by discharging a lot of soldiers without making sure they had a safe place to go and a stable path to long term success. So I’ll enjoy my day off today, but Monday I’ll be right back to work making sure that on future Veteran’s Days I won’t have to walk past a veteran sleeping outdoors on my way to celebrate his service.
– Jeremy Rosen, Policy Director