Too many veterans are homeless in America

Every day, hundreds of thousands of Americans wake up knowing that they might die that day. Everyday these same Americans put their lives on the line for America's ideals and values. America honors our veterans with Purple Hearts, Medals of Honor and parades, but what happens when the same men and women who sacrificed for our nation are left out in the cold, homeless and impoverished?

Fortunately, there are many organizations to help veterans. Large cities across the nation have shelters and programs directed toward providing a warm place to sleep and opportunities to find a job. Sadly, these programs aren't doing enough. In the last year, shelters have housed more veterans who have returned to America than they would have liked to have seen.

These veterans came home to their country, but none of them had a place to live. Once they return home, they are forced back into the real world with the horrors of war still very real. Post traumatic stress disorder, common after the Vietnam War, is becoming more and more common after Iraq. PTSD is one of the main reasons many veterans after Vietnam came home to drug addictions, unemployment and poverty.

It is true that the numbers of homeless veterans now are small, but the fact remains that they are rising. The Black Veterans for Social Justice, an organization in Brooklyn, saw only a few veterans from Iraq two years ago. Now, over a hundred occupy their shelter.

We, as a nation, cannot allow the men and women who fight for us to be left on the street with nothing to eat, no job and nowhere to sleep. Men and women in the armed services spend years training and in active duty during war. They return home to higher housing costs, but have the same minimum wages they received before they shipped out. While the government does provide benefits for veterans, the gap between where active service benefits apply and veteran benefits apply is sometimes too wide.

Not only returnees from Iraq are homeless. Over 500,000 veterans from past conflicts are homeless in America. The Veterans Administration was faced with this number in 2004, but only had enough funding to provide aid to 100,000 of them. The United States population has shown tremendous support for the people in the armed forces. They show this with the flags, yellow ribbons, and other symbols of respect and hope.

However, the men and women of America need to realize that there is a better way to support the troops: donations to organizations with the goals of helping veterans get back on their feet after returning from active duty. The more funding these organizations receive the more people they can help.

Katie Carlile is a junior at Greenwood Laboratory School.

Copyright © 2005, The Springfield News-Leader, a Gannett Company

© 2005, Springfield News-Leader

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