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Vets comprise one-third of homeless, survey says

Author: Kyoko Altman
Publication: Not Specified
Document Dated: November 8, 1997
Date Posted: November 14, 1997

Web posted at: 3:19 p.m. EST (2019 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- They served among the ranks of United States service members who fought for freedom in wars around the globe. Now they can be found among the ranks of the nation's homeless.

A survey done by the International Union of Gospel Missions finds 32 percent of the men who stay in homeless shelters served in the U.S. military during the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars. Among the nation's homeless veterans, 42 percent served in Vietnam.

"I'm not shocked, but I'm saddened at the figure for Vietnam vets," said Duane Gartland of the Light of Life Ministries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gartland says the war caused serious psychological damage to thousands of U.S. soldiers who returned, and he insists that issue still needs to be fully addressed.

The survey also found a positive correlation between the length of combat service, and the probability that a veteran would become homeless. Only 25 percent of the veterans surveyed served in the armed forces for two years or less. The rest served for at least three years.

Rev. Stephen Burger, executive director of IUGM, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri, says veterans who witnessed combat were far more likely to become homeless than those who did not.

"Unfortunately, the evidence is clear that many veterans who served our nation honorably have had difficulty making the transition to civilian life," Burger told CNN. He says homeless vets need help dealing with issues such as guilt and forgiveness. They also need support groups, mentoring, and educational programs, he added.

The survey of 1,200 veterans was done in October. Veterans who served in the Korean War made up 10 percent of all homeless vets. Another 10 percent served in the Gulf War.

Men accounted for 96 percent of those surveyed. Six percent were Hispanic, 51 percent Caucasian, and 37 percent African-American.


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