I want to know why with all the land and buildings that the federal government (the VA in particular) has, why are homeless veterans not allowed on the grounds to establish their shelters? Our government talks a good talk about ending homelessness for our veterans and blab, blab, blab, then throws a bunch of money and sets up commissions, study groups and nice sounding bills to end homelessness, suicides and all of those problems and then leaves until the next time the issue is raised by the news.

After all the hoopla dies down it is business as usual and the VA still has buildings that are empty, nice grassy areas that you’re not supposed to walk on and gates to keep out veterans that don’t have an appointment but just want to find shelter.

Set up a place for veterans that are homeless to maybe take a bath or shower? That would be a neat approach to helping out a veteran on the streets and might even get him/her on the road to recovery or cleaned up and back into society. Or why not just leave them on the street and tell them that they should call a number to get an appointment and then tell them to fend for themselves and figure a way of getting to a VA location that is 40 to 50 miles away. Of course, the veteran who is homeless doesn’t have a car and can’t get a ride because he/she smells so bad that no one will take them to the appointment at the VA. So now, the system can say they reached out a hand and the veteran had a chance but did not take advantage of the opportunity that was offered. Sarcastic but true.

I see veterans in need every day, I get calls from those veterans, I give them numbers of many places to get help. I then go to sleep at night thinking about the abysmal results of a system that is run from afar and not on the streets where the veterans are who need the most help.

Congress, long ago abolished the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, a place that housed wounded veterans, absorbed into the VA now.

The VA is committed to end homelessness for veterans but I believe that all the hoops necessary to jump through the process are mind-boggling. The numbers are going down and are about 38,000 by official HUD count. Despite all the flaws, wasted money and hoops I think, hopefully, over time that our homeless veterans will be fewer.

Never before has our Nation worked so hard to alleviate the homeless problem as they have over the last few years because of all the news stories and pressure from veterans themselves. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Thank you to the many who have helped in this matter. Now, don’t let it go, keep the fight going. We have a long way to go.

Think about the fact that some of our homeless veterans are sleeping on our streets, or in cars, panhandling or performing other tasks in public. We need to continue the fight to get help needed for the ones who want help and who want to get off the street.

I believe every community has a responsibility because they are veterans and many of them are there because of the time they served us on the battlefields where we sent them. They came back changed and, in some cases, broken.

The private sector with all the charities and support groups for veterans are not able to totally help these veterans without the leadership and direction of all government sectors from the federal government to the city level. NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) is not an option to eliminate the problem.

It takes folks with the guts to do something as leaders and tackle issues like this in a community. Ruffling some feathers and confronting the problem head-on. I have learned that doing the right thing and going for a cause that might not be popular is still the right thing to do even if you fail. I have failed at some of the issues that I have worked on in the past. It was still worth the effort. If you don’t swing the bat, you will never hit the ball. I urge you to read the quote at the end of this article, and think about where your community is. Not very good numbers considering the size of our country and the number of homeless veterans out and about. I also take these declarations of ending ALL veteran homelessness with a grain of salt.

“Three states ( Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia) and 82 communities have declared an end to veteran homelessness, amazing.” Source: Data from U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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