You’d think that after forty years of working with the homeless in Los Angeles, many of them veterans, (4000 out of 25,000 unsheltered homeless), a person would get used to the story. Apparently not. When I read Gale Holland’s Los Angeles Times article on the LA City Council’s vote on June 15th to make it easier to clear homeless encampments, I thought to myself: here it is again, moving
You know how a metropolitan skyline is dominated by tall buildings, kind of like silos? The homeless problem’s skyline looks like that too. Government, community-based organizations and non-profits all existing in the same place look like they’re part of a cohesive thing. In reality, they tend to be isolated because all are competing for the same limited resources.
We’re here again, in this spot where we look forward and back. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. Fallujah comes to mind, and now Ramadi.
Both will be on the minds of veterans whose lives were changed by these wars. Rippling out, the families and friends of these vets will also be thinking about these events. You know what happens when a stone is cast into a pool…the ripples extend out in ever-widening circles.
When published suicide statistics reached 22 veterans a day, Frank Spady said “Enough!” A decorated Vietnam combat Airborne ranger, Spady realized that vets in crisis couldn’t wait for the VA or Congress to fix the system to address their needs. The problem didn’t need more discussion, it needed action and that’s something Spady knows about.
So here are the characters: a guy named Frenchy and a guy named Sneaky. Does this sound like a 1940’s film noir opening? Let me introduce you to two unforgettable characters, both Vietnam vets.
Los Angeles might be the largest urban area in the richest country of the world. But you wouldn't know that if you were standing in downtown LA's Skid Row, seeing the sidewalks crowded with homeless, many of them veterans, many more of them mentally ill, on crutches, or in wheelchairs.
It seems like the more we know about PTSD, the more there is to know. While the term PTSD didn’t enter our language until the 1980’s, writers since Herodotus have been describing it. I’ve talked here before about the various treatments in use now, modalities that range from holistic to pharmaceutical. One thing I didn’t mention earlier was hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, the application of pure oxygen.
Vietnam veterans showed us the breadth, depth and long-term ramifications of non-physical injuries—Post Traumatic Stress. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought greater awareness to the issues returning veterans face in healing both physical and emotional injury while transitioning out of the military back into society.
A lyric heard in elevators, markets and malls probably since last Thanksgiving. But an impossible dream if you’re among the chronically homeless. Statistics from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in July of 2014, showed that over one million people were homeless, and 40% of those were U.S. military veterans.
The message came in on our website from the caretaker for a vet. Richard Miller, a Vietnam vet, wrote to us about Joe Max Orr, a Navy veteran who’ll celebrate his 100th birthday this December 7. This will be his first birthday celebration since 1941, Pearl Harbor Day. On that day, Joe did not celebrate his birthday, but instead honored the fallen at Pearl Harbor.
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