Homeless Veterans

Thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are returning home –many of them coming back to Virginia, hoping for a fresh start, or to simply pick up where they left off. Unfortunately, not only might they have a tough time finding employment because of the economy, but they may also face many other issues like dealing with post- traumatic stress disorder, reconnecting with family, and in many instances not having a place to call home.

Already, there are an estimated 900 homeless veterans scattered throughout Virginia and that number could be greatly underestimated as are not registered within the veteran’s services system. Most of them are Vietnam era vets like Keith, he’s withheld his last name, who served in the Marines for three years, worked as a Richmond police officer for two decades, but now finds himself starting over, and panhandling not far from the state capitol. His story is complex, but he says it is NOT related to a mental health issue like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—but for these returning vets—it’s something lawmakers will have to look into:

“Because it’s only going to get worse when the kids come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They will have P.T.S.D. They will have family domestic problems-which might put them out on the street. It’s only going to get worse,” he says.

Keith accepts some blame for HIS situation but says it’s been compounded by systematic redundancies. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Terrie Suit says that and mental health issues are being addressed. Suit says another challenge is finding the vets like Keith, helping them obtain proper identification, getting them back into the system, and determining what their needs are and why they became homeless to begin with.

–Tommie McNeil

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