Rhode Island and "Homeless Bill of Rights." (40151)

A veteran is defined as an individual who served active duty in one of the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Homeless is defined as not having a place to reside and make a living. A homeless veteran has no place to go.

For many veterans, they leave from the service to nothing. They feel that the country that they sacrificed for has betrayed them when they come home to maintain a stable way of life. Some veterans do quite well by making a decent living, and starting families, and their extended families provide the necessary support to get on them their feet. Some are even blessed to buy a home with a VA loan.

Veterans sacrifice sanity and stability for the sake of fighting for so-called “freedoms” we supposedly “enjoy” today. However, many vets who are doing well or folks who have never been in the military get angry with veterans who just can’t seem to get their lives in order. In other words, they take longer to get stabilized because they have to transition out of the life they have known for whatever amount of years they’ve served.

It’s an unfortunate situation for families of homeless veterans because they don’t know how to help their family members on a mental, spiritual or emotional level. In many cases, families and friends run out of patience when wanting to help, knowing that a homeless veteran needs support that they cannot provide, nor can the individual refer the individual to any organization that can help them.

Many folks who don’t understand say, “Well, they made their bed, they now have to lay in it.” Some say, “Hurry up and get it together! You’re not getting any younger!” My favorite one, which has been said to me: “You don’t have any kids, no man, no real responsibilities. You need to figure out what you want to do with your life.” Well, folks, it’s not necessarily easy to do.

How does a veteran end up homeless, you ask? Substance abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the list goes on. This process cannot be cured overnight. Why? The mental recovery is always the toughest part of this traumatic experience. Let’s look at some statistics, shall we?

As of September 2009, it is estimated that there are approximately 23 million veterans. On any given night, 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in homeless shelters in this country. Florida, New York and California, according to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, account for 44 percent of all homeless veterans.

The number of female veterans has doubled from 1,380 in 2006 to 3,328 in 2010. In New York City alone, according to the website Long March Home, there are currently 2,000 veterans who are homeless. In 2007, there were 2,525 homeless veterans.

Based on an article from Ebony magazine dated May 25, 2012, it was determined that 56 percent of homeless veterans are African-American or Latino. Blacks alone account for 34 percent of the total number of homeless veterans. As the numbers slowly drop, it’s still not enough. It will never be enough until every single veteran who sacrificed so much for us can live comfortably and securely as they deserve to.

Many of you say there should not be any homeless veterans on the streets or in a homeless shelter. Oh how right you are! This situation is difficult to tackle, and as stated earlier, the solutions will not appear overnight. It takes lobbying these legislators and lawmakers in doing right by the people who sacrificed for the richest country in the world.

We as veterans need our community to continue to fight with us and for us so that it is understood that we matter in this country. By the way, this article was written by a former homeless veteran who needed safe, stable affordable housing. I am happy to announce that I accomplished this goal and all is well.

To my fellow veterans who just can’t seem to get it together, there are many places you can go for help. Easter Seals, Black Veterans for Social Justice, Ruby House (women only) and the Jericho Project are just a few places you can get help. They will help you take the first steps in helping yourself.