Returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers creating influx of homeless vets
DENVER — For weeks, FOX 31 Denver has been reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers coming home from war. But what about those soldiers who don’t have a home to come home to?
The Department of Veterans Affairs is noticing a disproportionate number of younger veterans on the streets. According to USA Today, about 13,000 of the nation’s homeless in 2010 were ex-service members between 18 and 30. Many of them, returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers.
For those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), traumatic brain injuries or other ailments, coming home from war can be the start of a downward spiral. Unable to find jobs, soldiers often wind up on the streets.
Victor Johnson from Colorado Springs joined the Army after 9/11. He served in Iraq, but was injured when an IED hit his truck during the final security patrol of his deployment. It left him with a leg injury so bad, his doctors were considering amputation. Still, when he returned home, he expected a normal life.
“It didn`t work out that way,” Johnson told FOX 31 Denver. “Seems like it took a spiral in the wrong direction.”
He made a series of bad decisions, wound up in jail, and was evicted from his home. He and his wife Yvonda have spent the last few years in and out of temporary homes, and have spent the last several weeks on the streets.
It’s a stressful time. Especially since Yvonda is pregnant, and due to give birth any day now.
“At seven months, we stayed on the streets and walked all night for what a week,” Yvonda asked her husband.
With a baby on the way, Victor decided it was time to seek help.
“I`m a soldier, I`ll pitch me a tent and go lay out in the grass, but I can`t do that with my wife, and my family and my unborn kid,” Johnson said.
So he made contact with a Colorado charity called Homes for All Veterans.
Using grant money, the charity helps struggling veterans find shelter and help them get back on their feet.
“Once you get into a safe stable place, the other pieces are easy to work with,” said Dee Drake, program director for Homes for All Veterans.
The group found an apartment in Colorado Springs for Victor and Yvonda. They moved in a couple of weeks ago, and soon-to-be mom Yvonda can’t wipe the smile from her face.
“I have everything I want. My fear was I wouldn`t have a place to bring this baby home to, but God works good, he works in mysterious ways,” she said.
To learn more about Homes For All Veterans, click here: http://denveroptions.org/hav