This afternoon, I watched this video, and it really made me question whether I would have spotted any family member had I been in that situation. I know that I’m guilty of having a single-focused mind at times as I don’t always hear people talking to me if I have something serious on my mind.
Homelessness is a serious issue here in the US, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. On April 19, a homeless man was found dead in a porta-potty in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. He had been homeless since his house was foreclosed on in 2010. His cause of death was hypothermia as he was living in that portable restroom based on the conditions observed when he was found. With the harsh winter Michigan just went through, he tried to insulate the porta-potty with newspaper.
Our military veterans are no stranger to homelessness either. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless:
Far too many veterans are homeless in America—between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night—representing between one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people. Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.
Further, there is concern about the future. Women veterans and those with disabilities including post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night . And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.
Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2006). 97% of those homeless veterans will be male (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008).
The New York City Rescue Mission slapped me with a dose of reality today. I’ve read about the homeless before, and I’ve even donated to groups that help the homeless. Looking at that video made me think that I probably could not remember whether I actually knew any homeless person that I have come across or not. I’d like to think that I’ve looked at them and not completely ignored them. However, after seeing this video, I’m beginning to second guess myself now.