With so many people taking advantage of government programs funded by hard-working Americans, it’s easy to become cynical about our fellow man. I admit I am guilty of wondering why a grown man standing on a street corner asking for help, doesn’t just pick themselves up and get a job? It can be very difficult at times to reach into your wallet, and take from money you intended to use for groceries and give it to a perfect stranger.
Watch this powerful video, and maybe next time, you’ll think twice about walking past that homeless man or woman:
First John 3:17 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
In January 2014, communities across America identified 49,933 homeless veterans during point-in-time counts, which represents 8.6 percent of the total homeless population.
Homeless veterans tend to be male (91 percent), single (98 percent), live in a city (76 percent), and have a mental and/or physical disability (54 percent). Black veterans are substantially overrepresented among homeless veterans, comprising 39 percent of the total homeless veteran population but only 11 percent of the total veteran population.
As troops return from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the face of veteran homelessness has changed: homeless veterans are increasingly younger, female, and heads of households. Despite this, homeless veterans are still most likely to be males between the ages of 51 and 61 (43 percent) and to have served in the Vietnam War. And, in the next 10 to 15 years, it is projected that the number of homeless veterans over the age of 55 could increase drastically.
Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance abuse. Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.
Additionally, veterans often experience difficulty returning to civilian life, particularly those without strong social support networks, and may not have skills that can be easily transferred to employment outside of the military.viii Veterans face the same shortage of affordable housing options and living wage jobs as all Americans, and these factors—combined with the increased likelihood that veterans will exhibit symptoms of PTSD, substance abuse, or mental illness—can compound to put veterans at a greater risk of homelessness than the general population.
There’s something magical that happens around the holiday’s that makes us want to open our hearts and our wallets and be a little more generous to those in need. Next time you see a homeless man or woman on the sidewalk, bend down, look them in the eye and give them something. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe it’s the carry out you just picked up from the local pub down the street. Maybe it’s your leftovers you were bringing home for lunch the next day. Perhaps all you have it’s the change you had in your pocket for the meter. But please give them something to let them know you care about them. You never know…they may have been fighting for your freedom overseas this same time last year, or even decades ago.
We can’t punish those in need by ignoring their cries for help, because we have an out of control government who wastes money on those who take advantage of the system. It’s not the fault of our brothers or sisters who have fallen on hard times. We are the most generous nation in the world. There is never a good reason to walk by a homeless veteran and not share some token of gratitude with them as a “thank you” for their service to our country.
I have never walked away wishing I wouldn’t have shared some of what I had with someone in need.