Thoughts at Thanksgiving

Richard McFarthing, a homeless vet living on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard. Copyright Jessica Jewell Lanier.

The rain in Los Angeles today will continue into tomorrow. For here, it’s cold. In most other parts of the country it’s even colder and wetter. Most of us will spend tomorrow in warm, brightly lit places with family and friends, sharing a meal and stories. We’re the lucky ones.

I can’t help thinking about the homeless at times like this, among them many vets—men and women living on the streets, in their cars, in shelters when they can. As you know, many shelters open only at restricted times, and/or limit the number of nights a person can stay. A problem we hear on our Lifeline for Vets is intake times are restricted as well. For example,  if a shelter intakes for the night between 5PM and 6PM, if you’re working until 5:30, you’re out of luck getting a place for the night there.

Which brings me to the range of homeless people in America. Homelessness and mental illness are often linked, as is homelessness and substance abuse. In the case of Veterans, many are suffering from PTSD or MST, military sexual trauma. But many are the working poor, struggling to overcome whatever circumstances plunged them into homelessness. Women and children living in cars, men and women vets caught in the downward spiral of PTSD or a difficult or failed reintegration into civilian society—the problem presents so many different faces.

At this time of year as the holiday season gets into full swing, our crisis hotline experiences a spike in the number of calls. Day and night. It can be a lonely season. We’d love to offer our counselors 24/7. The need is there. Giving Tuesday is this coming Tuesday, December 3rd. On that day, if you donate on the National Veterans Foundation Facebook page, your contribution will be matched. You double your impact.

But there are other ways to give. Support your local efforts to solve homelessness, donate to groups who feed and shelter our homeless population. Participate in a food drive or a clothing drive. Volunteer at a shelter. Offer a smile, a greeting to someone who might be homeless.

Remember, there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Any act of kindness travels outward, touching people, just like gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you know a vet who needs help, here’s our Lifeline for Vets hotline: 888.777.4443

You can be a part of our mission to help Veterans by making a tax-deductible donation!

About the Author

Shad Meshad

As a U.S. Army Medical Service Officer in Vietnam in 1970, Shad Meshad began pioneering treatment techniques for what would later become known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is the founder of the National Veterans Foundation and founder and co-author of the VA’s Vet Center Program.


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