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Originally posted at Voices on the Square.
The author on an M548 tracked cargo carrier in Iraq.
The National Survey of Homeless Veterans in 100,000 Homes Campaign Communities found evidence that suggests veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population.  Veterans comprise less than 9% of the population but were found to make up more than 15% of the homeless population in the communities surveyed by this study.  Additionally, the study found that outcomes for homeless veterans also appear to be bleaker:
The 100,000 Homes Campaign’s total dataset suggests that the characteristics of veterans differ substantially from nonveterans in many ways. These differences may make them more vulnerable to death on the streets than the homeless population at large and may also contribute to veterans remaining homeless longer than non-veteran homeless individuals.

One of the most striking differences between these two groups is that homeless veterans, as a group, report having been homeless significantly longer than their non-veteran counterparts. On average, homeless veterans reported having been homeless for 5.77 years, compared to 3.92 years for homeless non-veterans. Similarly, 62% of veterans reported having been homeless for two years or more, while 50% of non-veterans said the same. Among those who had been homeless for more than two years, total length of homelessness jumped to 9 years for homeless veterans and 7.3 for homeless nonveterans.

As a combat veteran myself, I understand these statistics at the gut level. These numbers represent real people– my brothers and sisters in arms.  When I came back from Iraq and separated from the service, I didn’t receive any real support services.  I kept my experiences to myself and didn’t talk about them with anyone.  I went to college and spent my time, for the most part, with kids who could never imagine how I spent my time for over a year in Iraq.  At times, my experience in college was surreal.  I can’t explain the disconnect I felt from these kids who thought that a week deadline for a 5 page essay was out of line.  I graduated with a double major in 3 years.  I couldn’t believe how easy college life was after serving for more than a year in Desert Storm.  

It wasn’t until I hit the workforce that I started to encounter veterans where I worked.  We naturally gravitated toward each other.  I gradually learned to talk about my service.  It’s not something I hide anymore.  

Other veterans aren’t as lucky as me.  I have a relative who served two tours at Camp Taji just north of Baghdad in Iraq.   He suffers from PTSD as a result of his experiences with IEDs in Iraq.   So, veteran’s issues aren’t just statistics to me–it’s personal.  A few weeks ago, I read this article in my paper and got a wake-up call.  

The smell of cooked hot dogs fills the space. A television blares a movie about a retired soldier framed for a crime.

Men and women -- about 30 or so at 6 p.m. Wednesday -- mill about, eating hot dogs and other donated items from the Flagstaff Family Food Center. Some men have found a spot on the floor to stretch out a yoga mat and catch some sleep under donated blankets, their backpacks and gear next to them within reach.

The place, made possible through the efforts of a local agency called Northern Arizona Vets Serving Vets, has been offering overnight shelter for the last three weeks, said organizer John Nanney.

After reading the article, I looked at their website and found an agency that was working to help homeless veterans in my community.

"No Vet Left Behind"
The team at Vets Serving Vets is dedicated to the homeless men and women who served this country with honor and purpose.  Our mission is founded on the principles of teamwork and encompasses all branches of the Armed Forces.
I read this quote by on the website about the person who is the driving force behind Northern Arizona Vets Serving Vets…..
For the past seven months I have been honored to watch one of our most devoted and dedicated Marines give of his time, energy, money, and material possessions to help those in need. This is a man who served this country for 32 years of his life and continues to do so every single day. Going without things for himself, he gives away his own material possessions so that others can have the things they need and want. Not only did he serve our country so that we can enjoy our freedom, he continues to serve those who need shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and most importantly, an ear to hear their voices.
And then I sent an email asking if they needed my help.  That’s how I got involved with Northern Arizona Vets Serving Vets.  

Is there anything you can do to help my brothers and sisters today in your community?

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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