The surge at home

Yesterday was Veterans Day, when we pause to appreciate the sacrifice of those who have served our nation in the armed forces and remember those whose stories ended, whether on the beaches of Normandy or the jungles of Vietnam or in the sands of Iraq. In a time when war is more divorced than ever from the lives of most Americans, we feel it is important to note our failure as a nation to take care of these men and women who have given more to this country than most ever will.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 25 percent of the country’s homeless are veterans, even though veterans make up only 11 percent of the nation’s adult population. While most of the 196,000 homeless veterans served in the Vietnam War, already 1,500 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been estimated to be homeless. Experts say that in the coming years, that number is likely to grow far higher, as the personal troubles that push veterans into the street often take years to develop.

Soldiers and their families have already sacrificed more than their share for these wars, and its past time for the rest of us to sacrifice something to ensure those returning home are able to get the treatment they deserve to prevent the homelessness problem from growing any further. Congress should move to adopt the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s recommendations, including setting up a risk assessment process within 30 days of a veteran’s discharge, creating 25,000 supportive housing units for chronically homeless veterans who may have chemical dependency issues, and expanding rental assistance to veterans who close the gap between income and rent for veterans, one of the biggest causes of homelessness.

These changes are going to cost $6.4 billion according to the alliance, but we as a nation should consider it our civic duty to sacrifice in turn for those who have sacrificed for us. While most veterans are doing well and living in stable housing, those who are not deserve our attention and our help. The best way to honor the fallen is to take care of their comrades who are still alive and in need of a hand.