Friday, August 7, 2009

The Prince and an ATM at the Sunshine Hotel

The Prince, an ATM at the Sunshine Hotel in the Bowery: The Number of Homeless Veterans Plunges at City Shelters
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

Last month I read a disturbing article in one of the major psychiatry journals that summarized the findings of a study which interviewed a couple of thousand people who were chronically homeless (over six months) in New York City.

I was shocked to learn that of the subjects that were successfully interviewed something like 25% were veterans with the average age being over 70.

A report released in 2007 by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), stated that veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to be chronically homeless.

And according to a recent statement by Robert V. Hess, New York City’s commissioner of homeless services, in June of this year, there are roughly 150,000 homeless veterans in the United States on any given day.

Although slightly lower, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs likewise estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless every night, which is significantly lower than what they reported in 2005 when they estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

The VA sums up the situation as follows: “The nation's homeless veterans are mostly males (four percent are females). The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. 47 percent of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era. More than 67 percent served our country for at least three years and 33 percent were stationed in a war zone.”

Needless to say, homelessness amongst veterans is a significant concern.

There seemingly is hope however; as Mr. Hess also recently announced that the New York City Department of Homeless Services reduced the number of veterans living in city shelters by 60 percent from December 2006 to May 2009. He claims that this was a result of the task force that was created in December of 2006 to begin moving homeless veterans into permanent housing.

Mr. Hess tempered his remarks by adding, “But I realize that what works in New York City will not work everywhere. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.”

That said, the outlook still looks fairly positive, considering that 20 years ago the VA estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000, which means that the number has almost been cut in half in the last two decades.

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