"Even one homeless veteran is one too many," stated Sen Chuck Schumer. ( D-New York )
A newly released report states that one in four homeless New Yorkers is a military veteran and that number is rising quickly. In New York City and Long Island, nearly 6,000 servicemembers are homeless according to the Veterans Day report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness as returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan battle sky-high housing costs and tough economic times.
The report details one of the silent but growing crisis facing vets these days. The number of homeless vets is up 70% in the New York area in the past year. There are 530 homeless vets in the Bronx, 680 in Manhatten, 970 in Queens and 880 in Brooklyn according to the report.
"You are taught survival skills ( in the military ) and you end up on the street, and it's a jungle." stated homeless vet Harold Gilchrist, 38.Gilchrist served in the Marine Corps and fought in Operation Desert Storm. He was discharged in 1993 after being wounded by a land mine and returned to the U S without a job or a home. He recently commented while picking up lunch at the Bowery Mission, that he had put his life on the line and being homeless isn't right. Frank Howela spent a year in the service in the 70's but that didn't keep him off the streets either. He stated that it seems that once you take off the uniform, you become invisable.
Homeless advocates have long been pushing for more support for veterans so that they can avoid the downward spiral towards homelessness. The Jericho Project, a national organization that works to find permanent solutions to homelessness announced a new program in the Bronx that will house 56 formerly homeless vets.
Schumer is pushing for a four-point plan to help. He wants to dramatically expand housing voucher programs for veterans, fund transitional programs to ease them back to civilian life and provide extra mental health care for vets. He also is backing $75 million in new funding for veterans homelessness programs in a bill that President Bush has threatened to veto.
"Whatever your view is on the Iraq war, we should honor them. This is in a very real sense, a national disgrace," stated Schumer.President Bush and Washington D C may want to push it's treatment of vets under the carpet but it is becoming very much a national disgrace........... everything that can be done, should be done for those returning from the wars they have created no matter what the cost in dollars.
Of note: photo is of Harold Gilchrist, Marine veteran.