Mississippi Group working to End Veteran HomelessnessBy Daniel Cherry | Published 30 Sep 2011 10:48am |
Recent data from the Veterans Administration says veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become homeless. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a group in Mississippi is working to get vets off the streets.
More than a quarter of all homeless people are veterans. For a homeless Vietnam veteran it takes on average about 7 to 8 years before they lose their home. For a homeless veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, it takes only 18 months. Dekeither Stamps served with both the Army and the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq. He says deployments take a toll on servicemen and women.
"Your wife isn't going to deal with it too long. You're going to come home one day and realize that things aren't the same way as when you left. Your family situation breaks down, your health situation breaks down, and then you find yourself out of the military once your health situation breaks down. So now you've lost your family, your primary means of employment, and your health."
Stamps says that's when many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, spiraling many down a path to homelessness. Jack Downing is the President of Soldier On, a Massachusetts based group who offers permanent housing to veterans.
"They ricochet out of out shelters into our jails, our emergency rooms, into community based programs, and back onto the streets. That cycle, the only way to interrupt it is to build affordable housing that they can live in, and what we've found is that if they own...they don't go back out."
Soldier On is in Mississippi giving lessons to a group in Jackson wanting to implement a similar strategy. Bill Cooley is with the Jackson Committee for Permanent Housing for Homeless Veterans. He says taking care of veterans would make the homeless problem more manageable.
"Homeless people tend to migrate towards Jackson where they can receive certain services, and as a result there is an inordinate impact on businesses and the quality of life of citizens in general."
The group is trying to secure both public and private funds to bring the project to Mississippi. Cooley says it's not only economical, it's a duty to take care of those who served their country.
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