The homeless: America's 'invisible population' - Feed Our Vets
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The homeless: America’s ‘invisible population’

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there 3.5 million homeless Americans, and on any given night, over 700,000 people are without a home.

In Houston, 46-year-old James Francis is an unemployed homeless male in the middle of a 10 year fight with a drug addiction.

“I usually don’t talk to people about what I’m going through because I’m not looking for sympathy. I know I’m out here because of my mistakes, my addiction, and my lack of taking responsibility,” Francis said.

November is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month and the week before Thanksgiving (November 14-20) was officially declared National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Many schools, communities and cities have joined the nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the intertwined problems of hunger and homelessness.

“It’s a serious situation not only here in Houston but all over America. We’ve become the invisible population. Who really cares about us? It’s really small organizations and churches that come out here to help us. I am determined to get back on my feet,” said Mr. Francis, who once was a construction worker.

“President Obama has made homelessness a priority in his administration in several ways. One way is he attached the issue to the stimulus program and allocated $1.5 billion for homelessness prevention,” Neil Donovan, National Coalition for the Homeless executive director told The Final Call.

Mr. Donovan also noted President Obama is enforcing “zero tolerance” for the existence of homeless war Vets and that the White House has already begun implementing strategies for this.

In 2009, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness drafted the nation’s first comprehensive roadmap for preventing and ending homelessness in America. In June, the agency submitted its plan to the president and Congress, entitling it: “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”

The council’s mission is to stop chronic homelessness in five years, eliminate Veteran homelessness within five years and eradicate homelessness for families, youth, and children before 2020.

“For a quarter century, we’ve known that ending homelessness is bigger than any one agency or level of government. During that time, we’ve failed to tackle homelessness not because we lacked the resources—but the leadership to harness those resources. With President Obama in the White House, we have a president who believes that no one should experience homelessness,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, the council’s chairperson.

The coalition’s analysis found homelessness stems primarily from foreclosures, poverty, weakening job security, declining public assistance, addictions, and mental illness.

Racially, the population is figured to be at 42 percent African-American, 38 percent Caucasian, 20 percent Hispanic, four percent Native American and two percent Asian.

Children comprise 23 percent of the homeless population, while 40 percent of homeless men are Veterans. Every night in America an estimated 100,000 Veterans are homeless or temporarily housed in relief centers.

Feed our Vets works to provide nutritious food to hungry and homeless U.S. military Veterans and their families.   If you are a Veteran in need of food assistance, please contact us at info@feedourvets.org.   To support our work, please make a donation at www.feedourvets.org.

Source: Final Call

 

Homeless women Veterans need more help

Studies are showing a rise in homeless female Vets

Nearly 107,000 Vets were homeless in 2009. About 10 percent of those were women, and while not always reported about, their post-war struggles should be on the national agenda.

While the number of overall homeless Veterans are going down, the percentage of women are on the way up. The issue is becoming increasingly dire as troops from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to return home, suffering from physical and emotional trauma.

National Guard Veteran Mickiela Montoya spoke about her homelessness as a single parent on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Mickiela became homeless after she was discharged from the military when she had no one to care for her daughter when she was to be deployed to the war. Her discharge meant a loss of income, and with no money coming in or available care for her child, she was left on the streets.

Her experience bucks the conventional wisdom that homeless Veterans are older, single, and male. And her experience is not unique – young Veteran mothers are the core group facing homelessness among former service members. Montoya’s experience also affirms that female Vets, at higher rates than men, lack the post-service financial resources to adequately survive.

Women Veterans also suffer from higher joblessness rates than their male counterparts as they are not as likely to have jobs that pay well enough to afford housing. Without proper programs to assist female Veterans, situations like Montoya’s will are expected to become more common.

Women re-entering civilian life face the same challenges as men, like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and substance abuse. But some challenges are clearly gender-specific. Many women Vets are untreated survivors of military sexual trauma, resulting in increased emotional instability, depression, self-medication, and broken social ties that spin out of control into financial problems.

In working through the wide array of problems women face, an encouraging fact is that Veteran homelessness has received some attention, mainly because many consider the issue a startling contradiction to the sacrifice they’ve paid for the country’s freedom. However, there has been a nearly 20 percent decrease in Vet homelessness as the problem, and the public’s demand for an end to it, has become more visible.

The Obama administration and Congress have begun responding to increased homelessness among female Veterans and their children. The Veterans’ Benefit Act of 2010 was signed into law on October 13, 2010, which authorizes $1 million per year from 2011 to 2015 for dedicated services to homeless Veteran women and families, like safe, affordable housing and job services.

The administration has also introduced “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” which adds Vet-specific riders to the general plan to end homelessness. The “Opening Doors” policy seeks to guarantee full services for permanent housing, economic security, integrated health care, and related support services. Swiftly implementing these service provisions are critical to successful reintegration.

But other steps need to be taken to fully address this problem. Veteran-specific resources must be made more readily available, especially ones that cater to women, minorities and low-income post-service soldiers.

Feed our Vets works to provide nutritious food to hungry and homeless U.S. military Veterans and their families.   If you are a Veteran in need of food assistance, please contact us at info@feedourvets.org.   To support our work, please make a donation at www.feedourvets.org.

Source: Center for American Progress

 

Hunger in America: 5 Myths

Myth 1: No one goes hungry in America

Hunger is not limited to drought-ravaged third world countries, nor is it something seen on TV where donations to relief groups can make the problem go away. Rather, hunger affects millions right here in America.

New findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that 17.4 million American families – almost 15 percent of U.S. households – are “food insecure,” a number 30 percent higher than 2006. This means that during any given month, they will be out of money, out of food, forced to miss meals or seek assistance to stop the hunger.

Yet even increasing the quantity of food won’t solve the problem, as high sugar, high fat and high calorie foods are promoted by federal and state assistance programs. The New York Times recently ran a story that the USDA promotes healthier eating, just as they work with Domino’s to develop a new line of pizzas featuring 40 percent more cheese.

Obesity is the cousin of hunger, too, as there is a noticeable lack of healthy food and dining options in many cities. Eating three fast food meals a day, and suffering the inevitable weight gains, can be just as bad as not having enough food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30 percent of adults are obese. The number of children with weight issues is increasing, especially with Latinos. Diet-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes are now among the leading causes of death in America. People are dying from eating the wrong foods.

Myth 2: Stopping malnourishment is only a humanitarian concern

Hunger threatens our economic future and our national security. One in four American children, close to 17 million, live in food-insecure homes. Hungry kids can’t learn, kids who can’t learn drop out of school, and kids without educations cannot help America compete in the world. Kids without jobs turn to crime, get arrested and cost taxpayers $40,000 a year to keep in jail.

 

Obese children also reduce the recruiting pool for the military, weakening the future of America’s ability to protect itself. Military officers have said that over 9 million young adults – 27 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 – weigh too much to enlist.

 

Nine percent of yearly healthcare costs, around $147 billion, are spent treating the obese, a group who spend $1,500 more per year on healthcare than people of average weight.

Myth 3: Children are hunger’s only victims

Single working mothers are the ones most likely to be hungry. Many federal programs exist to give aid to children at school, but for mothers who often have to also worry about gas, housing, work and bills, in addition to food, how money and assistance aid should be spent isn’t always clear. Meals end up being missed in order to keep other components working.

Another tragedy is the rapidly growing number of seniors who have to choose between food, medicine and utilities. Though few will admit to needing help, a 2007 study by Meals on Wheels found that 6 million seniors are food-deficient. The 80 million baby boomers approaching retirement are expected to live longer than any previous generation, but not all have set aside enough resources for their final years. When they leave the workforce, many will have inadequate food for their golden years.

Myth 4: Wasted food could feed everybody

According to Jonathan Bloom’s new book, “American Wasteland,” up to 40 percent of the food we produce is ultimately thrown away. Household waste or decomposing fruits and vegetables are unfit to eat and impractical to collect. Unnecessary expiration dates resign millions of pounds of edible food to landfills, and the country cannot survive on leftovers.

Still, that doesn’t mean they serve no purpose. Since President Bill Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, programs around the country have retrieved millions of pounds of great food from restaurants and hotels and have re-used it to feed the hungry and provide job training in the culinary fields for the unemployed. Food banks have redistributed hundreds of millions of pounds of nonperishable goods, and food activists called gleaners have traveled to farms to forage for crops that won’t make it to market.

 

Myth 5: Hunger is about food.

Ever since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the government has worked diligently to ensure that no American goes hungry. The USDA filled communities with surplus commodities such as cheese and butter, and enrollment in the food stamp program, the front-line federal weapon in the fight against hunger, is at an all-time high, with 42.4 million people receiving support.

Yet the number of Americans who struggle to put food on their tables has never decreased. This is because hunger isn’t about food. It’s about jobs and wages.

The passage of living-wage laws, tariffs that protect U.S. jobs and comprehensive public health care, would do more to combat hunger than anything charities have tried in the past five decades. Incentives for local food production would keep citizens healthy and local economies thriving.

For example, D.C. Central Kitchen provides locally sourced, made-from-scratch meals for public and charter schools in Washington. Despite the recession, they added 30 well-paid employees, many from their own job training program, all of whom receive benefits. In 2009, 80 of their graduates, many of them felons or former drug addicts, earned more than $2 million in salaries and paid more than $200,000 in local payroll taxes. And while learning new skills, they produced more than 1.4 million healthy meals for shelters and food programs.

What they did isn’t unique. It’s happening all over America, and it isn’t charity – it’s rock-solid business.

Feed our Vets works to provide nutritious food to hungry and homeless U.S. military Veterans and their families.   If you are a Veteran in need of food assistance, please contact us at info@feedourvets.org.   To support our work, please make a donation at www.feedourvets.org.

Source: Washington Post

 


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