It is America’s shame: The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that 48,000 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 are either homeless or in special programs that aim to keep them off the streets.
Although the total of homeless veterans from other wars is declining, the number of homeless men and women from the nation’s two most recent wars is increasing. The VA is expanding its efforts to identify veterans who now live without a roof over their heads.
This year and next, the VA will give $300 million to groups that make finding shelter for homeless veterans a priority. The grants will also fund social services, including drug counseling and mental health resources.
Making sure veterans have a safe place to eat and sleep is the least Americans can do for those who have served their country. Multiple deployments can lead to physical and mental afflictions, as well as lost earning power and broken relationships. Such veterans are owed more than cheap accolades.
The White House has saluted Phoenix as the first city in the nation to end homelessness among veterans. Philadelphia and Chicago are trying to follow its lead, with creative initiatives and a commitment of resources to get veterans into modest housing that can accommodate a spouse and children.
This year is the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. It must also become the first year of a much-needed war on homelessness among veterans.
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