Homeless veterans deserve more recognition

We’re nearing the holiday season, which in turn means colder weather.  We’re bustling about, buying Christmas decorations before it’s even Halloween.  We’ll probably be going to and from our families’ and friends’ houses, celebrating and having a good time overall.  We also might be doing so without thinking a moment about those who protected this country so we can still do all of this, mostly fearless of another terrorist attack.      

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website, the White House and VA teamed together in 2009 to start the End Veteran Homelessness Initiative, which was supposed to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.  While there was a 33 percent drop in veteran homelessness between 2009 and 2014, they obviously did not meet their goal. 

Last year, just in Chester County alone, there were 288 homeless veterans.  New York City had 1,645 homeless veterans.  11.4 percent of the entire homeless population is comprised of veterans, and I feel that this is absolutely pitiful.  These people committed their lives to protecting our country; many of them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or have injuries that prevent them from holding a job, and maybe they’ll even come home to this.

It’s almost a landslide of problems:  A soldier comes home, either with an injury or PTSD, which can cause a plethora of troubles.  Because of these, maybe he or she can’t hold a job or they turn to substance abuse.  Trouble adjusting to civilian life can cause concerns, too.

Because of those issues, maybe the veteran is one of thousands that finds themself homeless.  Even veterans that don’t come home with injuries or PTSD can end up homeless, because they lack the college education necessary to be hired in many jobs. 

Considering the aforementioned problems faced by soldiers coming home, nearly five to eight thousand veterans each year commit suicide.  It’s unknown how many of these individuals are homeless.

VA hospitals do what they can, but they’re not a homeless shelter, nor do they always prevent veteran suicide.  It’s up to us to take initiative and try to help.  Maybe some of us can’t start entire organizations, so why shouldn’t we help the organizations that are already in existence?  Just thinking “I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference” is wrong – just one person can spread the word and start something big. 

These problems are almost never on the news.  Maybe there’s a commercial here and there asking for donations to certain organizations, but that’s it.  Since when did scientific research about shrimp or a celebrity’s next divorce trump over the fact that thousands of veterans have nothing and can’t even get into a shelter for the night, let alone find a decent meal?  How about the fact that an average of 22 veterans a day are committing suicide?  Let alone the fact that most homeless problems aren’t touched by news outlets, period.  I get it.  It’s not a hot topic, it’s not trending on social media.  But it’s an important problem nonetheless.

Maybe if the media paid more attention to this problem, it would become better-known.  Maybe we shouldn’t focus on what’s hot and trending, but instead on the real, deeply important problems in this world.  Maybe we shouldn’t ignore the topics that aren’t trending, because maybe they’re important, too.

We should try to do something.  Don’t say “Someone else can,” or “It doesn’t affect me, so why should I care?”   

Here’s my challenge to you:  Take 10 or 20 minutes to research statistics on the Department of Veteran Affairs website (va.gov) or other websites.  Find out if you can do something to help; there’s information about what you can do to help right on their website.  Research the End Veteran Homelessness Initiative.

There’s a homeless shelter for veterans being built right in Indiana County; see if there will be any volunteer work needed when it opens.  Pay attention to one of those donation commercials for veterans, and see if you have an extra $20 to donate to a worthy cause.  Spread the word, and make this a topic that cannot be ignored. 

Soldiers vow to protect their country from foreign and domestic threats.  Can’t we do something in return?

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