Thursday, January 7, 2016

Poor Homeless, Hungry, Helpless Veterans

This will not be a popular post, so be forewarned. My disclaimer, as always, is that the opinions herein expressed are MINE, and nobody else's. Reading is your decision.

Everyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a nonconformist. But I'm a peaceful sort, and if I don't agree with you, I tend to just keep my mouth shut. You are entitled to your opinions, even if they're bigoted, biased or downright absurd. I don't like arguing.

The other thing everyone knows is that I'm a U.S. Army veteran. In my spare time, I advocate for, work for, and volunteer for  veterans organizations and for veterans. And aside from veterans, I work with "the homeless" in various places and for several organizations that serve the homeless here in Birmingham.

I also hate public SOAPBOXING, so am doing that here, in my little blog rant world.
Now then... 

For the last 60 or so years, the Call of the Union has been, "Everything that hasn't been handed to African/Americans, and everything any of them hasn't accomplished, and any unemployment or hunger they suffer is MY FAULT." ("MY" refers to any WASP, but mostly to us Southern WASPs.) Well, black lives DO matter. As do white lives, blue lives, yellow lives, and all other human lives, whatever the color of their skin or uniforms. As Forest Gump said, "THAT'S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT." 

Suddenly, or maybe gradually and I just missed it, the Call of the Union has changed to, "Everything that hasn't been handed to veterans, and everything any of them hasn't accomplished, and any unemployment or hunger or homelessness they suffer is YOUR FAULT." (This "YOUR" refers to anyone who is a non-veteran; OR any veteran who owns an eating establishment who hasn't opened it up for free to any hungry  veteran, an apartment building who hasn't opened it up for free to homeless veterans, or owns a business who hasn't hired veterans whether they're qualified  or not, and whether they have any work ethic or not.) I don't fit any of those categories, so it's not MY fault this time.

I can't speak for the whole United States, but I CAN speak fairly knowledgeably about the veterans and the homeless in Birmingham. And there are many. As some of you know, I've had conversations with the homeless in and around Avondale Park, and with the homeless around the downtown area (Church of the Reconciler neighborhood). THESE are the truly homeless. There are various circumstances that caused it, and a few of these are veterans, but not many. 

WOAH! WAIT! "...a few of these are veterans...?" Yep. VERY few. Why? Because Birmingham has about a dozen resources for homeless veterans. All of these resources provide the honorably-discharged veteran (with a legitimate DD-214) a clean, warm place to live, 3 meals a day, and job training. They also provide transportation to and from the V.A. Hospital when needed.  

So, why aren't ALL veterans NOT homeless here? Well, there are several reasons, and here are the most common I've run across in the last couple of years:

1. They aren't veterans. They are pretending to be, or saying they are, because VETERAN is an emotional buzz-word,  and appeals to people who then feel patriotic and sorry for them and give them money.

2. They were dishonorably discharged and don't qualify. They stole stuff, they lost their temper and  injured somebody on our side, they did drugs and failed rehab 3 times, they failed to go to work (AWOL), or went to the job site, but sold supplies or equipment or vehicles that weren't theirs to sell, and were kicked out. (Just like a civilian job would have done.)

3. They were honorably discharged, but aren't willing to conform to the rules of the resources - ie, no drinking, no drugs, 10:00pm curfew, get up every morning, be willing to "help around the house" - chores such as cooking, cleaning up, mopping, etc., be willing to train for a job of some sort, and no overnight guests in the home. In other words, they trade the security and comfort of a home for the freedom that homelessness provides. It's THEIR DECISION! (Just like a disgruntled spouse might have done.)

Since we also have many homeless shelters here that don't require veteranship, number 3 applies to most of the rest of the homeless. It's essentially their choice. More than once, I've offered to give rides to a shelter to some of the homeless in Avondale Park, and to a man -and one woman- they would rather sleep in the bitter cold pavillion than have to go somewhere they can't drink and have to "work". And one of them told me, when I tried to give him a can of vienna sausages, "Ms Ginger, anyone hungry here is by choice or lying. There are 3 places within walking distance that serve meals 7 days a week. Don't fall for that. They're looking for booze money."

But I digress...

Let me address the jobless veteran  problem:

The veterans who don't work, or don't want to work are, by definition, unemployed. Veterans are citizens like everyone else. They are human. They are... well... like YOU. The only REAL difference between you and me is that I signed the line and went to war for my employment. I was very lucky in that my wartime "job" was much like my civilian job. I was a nurse, and when I got back, I was still a nurse. That fact doesn't apply to all veterans. For example, if Sgt Smith was a munitions expert in the military, that job isn't usually available in the civilian world. So, if he chooses to leave military employment, he will probably have to retrain for a different job in the civilian workplace. If a military member plans to quit her or his military job, he or she needs to think seriously about what job the future holds. My daddy always said, "It's easier to GET a job if you HAVE a job." Maybe one should see what is available out there BEFORE he/she quits the current job, just like most normal civilians do.

In and around Birmingham, we do have several job fairs every year. In 2015 there were 6 that I know of and 5 I was involved in. Those five job fairs had 30 or more employers that wanted and targeted veterans for employment. Some of them said that the work ethic of veterans, along with the general physical fitness of veterans, made them very desirable for their job openings. These job fairs were advertised on, on the radio, and in local veterans newsletters. Before 3 of those job fairs, I went to various places that veterans hang out and posted signs, talked to people, talked to spouses, emailed veterans I know are looking for jobs, etc... and it was a total waste of my time. For those 3 job fairs, we had less than a dozen veterans show up, and most of those  were from the veteran shelters that provide job training.  

Folks, YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE HIM DRINK! At what point do people take ANY responsibility for their own situation???

So it comes down to this: 

I am SICK to PUKING of some people USING their veteran status to glean sympathy. I am even SICKER of some people using their veteran status as an excuse for homelessness, hunger, unemployment or dishonesty. The V.A. and other organizations (Wounded Warriors, Three Hots and a Cot, Operation Wounded Warrior, Homes for our Troops, No Excuses Charitable Fund, etc) gone OVER and ABOVE in providing veterans with all kinds of benefits civilians don't get. They can get free health care, and then whine about how long it takes to get an appointment. They can get a free college education (G.I. Bill), and whine about unemployment. If their "disability" is legitimate, mental or physical, they can get free money for the rest of their lives, and whine about being hungry. They can get free housing and meals but prefer the freedom to whine about "poor me. I'm homeless."

And while I'm ranting, I might as well rant about all the employed, retired, homed in suburbia, and well-fed veterans who aren't interested in knowing what is going on in the rest of the veteran world. The ones who go about their civilian jobs, their lawns, their health clubs, their lives, but don't want any part of the numerous veterans organizations that DO keep up with what is going on, and that help veterans and their families  in so many ways I can't even begin to list all the ways: The VFW, the American Legion, Amvets, etc. 

Let me reiterate that I'm talking Alabama here. I don't have any information about other states, so if you are living in Oklahoma or somewhere reading this, it might not apply to veterans in your state. I'm sorry. I'm not accountable for the rest of the U.S.

OK. I'm done. For now...

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