Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Chapter 3

WHY ARE THERE HOMELESS
VETERANS IN AMERICA?


       United States Homeless veterans include a significant number from recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and severe sleep deprivation, as well as other severe health issues.  Often people who have never suffered from the inability to sleep are unaware of how great of a toll this has in preventing those who do from functioning well enough to hold down a steady job.

       Many veterans have lost civilian jobs due to extended tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and upon returning home, find it very difficult to support themselves and their families.  Many who are not currently homeless are in danger of becoming so because of ongoing economic hard times.  At least a half million veterans pay over 50% of their income for rent or a mortgage.

       Estimates of the total number of homeless U.S. citizens range from highly questionable official government statistics of under 1 million to far more likely accurate numbers of 3-5 million, over a million being children.  At least 1 in 4 homeless citizens are veterans or spouses and children of veterans.

       According to the Los Angeles Times, the homeless population grew in all 25 cities included in a 2013 survey.  There were officially 22,000 homeless children and 52,000 total homeless in New York City shelters, not including the many homeless not in shelters; the official number for L.A. County alone, not including other neighboring counties, was 58,000.  Nationally, there were officially 68,000 homeless college students.  Such official figures are considered to be on the extreme low side of actual reality. ¹

       Various social service providers report, while lack of income, disabilities, sickness, mental health issues and substance abuse all contribute to homelessness, the primary reason Americans are homeless is lack of affordable housing.  This problem is growing worse according to mayors and other city leaders nationwide.

       Regardless of religious, political or other persuasion, there is no excuse for citizens of the United States to allow even one veteran to be homeless.  Nor is there any excuse to allow one senior, one child or anyone else to remain homeless.  Politicians failing to make helping the homeless a top priority should never be elected and be permanently removed from office.

       Americans who sit idly by and make no attempt to address and alleviate problems of poverty in our nation, openly display a severe lack of patriotism, historical and moral understanding and, a total absence of maturity, self-respect and dignity.

       Do Americans who ignore the plight of homeless veterans really support the troops?  Can we march in parades waving flags pretending to be patriotic while continuing to ignore our growing homeless population, regardless of the reasons why they are homeless?

       What manner of nation claims to be the greatest nation on earth and a beacon for freedom and democracy, while millions of her own citizens live in open squalor?  Why are there homeless veterans in America?  Why are there homeless seniors and children in America?  Why is anyone homeless in America? ²

       You decide.


NOTES:

1. Statistics in this article are in estimated round numbers; sources for stastical claims and other information in this chapter include numerous articles in diverse media sources, including this article in the New York Times and this article in the Los Angeles Times.  Other sources include the National Coalition for the Homeless, New York Coalition for the Homeless, National Alliance To End Homelessness and Operation Stand Down Nashville.

2. Studies conducted by Philip Mangano, former National Homeless Policy Czar under both presidents Bush and Obama, reveal that it costs taxpayers on national, state and local taxation levels, far more to not house a homeless person than to house the same homeless person.  Costs for arresting and jailing America's poor, as well as costs for hospitalization, medical expenses, shelters, social workers and other taxpayer supported services, can range from $35,000 to well over $150,000 annually per homeless individual, while costs to house the same individual range from $13,000 to $25,000 annually.  Many homeless people are employed, receive social security or some other income and, when cities charge them 30 percent of their income for housing, annual savings to taxpayers can be considerably more. Link to Philip Mangano Interview.

According to a Los Angeles study, it costs taxpayers in Los Angeles $605 per month to house homeless veterans, while it costs the same taxpayers $2,900 per month in law enforcement, jail, court, health care and other costs to not house them: Link to Los Angeles County Comparative Cost Analysis.  Phoenix, Arizona has dramatically reduced the number and taxpayer costs of homeless veterans by housing rather than arresting them: Link to NY Times Arizona Article.  After conducting studies clearly demonstrating it is statistically far less expensive to house than to not house homeless people, the State of Utah is no on course to virtually eliminate homelessness entirely by 2015: Link to Utah Article.

In Florida it cost the taxpayers of Osceola County over 5 million dollars to repeatedly arrest and jail 37 homeless people over a period of ten years, not including police, court and health costs, while it would have cost only about 3.5 million to house them instead, including rent and utilities: Link to Florida Article.  According to a study conducted by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, "Florida residents pay $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets", while it would cost the same Florida taxpayers only "$10,051 per homeless person to give them a permanent place to live and services like job training and health care", representing a 68% savings in taxpayer dollars: Link to Florida Commission on Homelessness study.  According to the Denver Business Journal, it costs $50,000 annually to not house the homeless, far more than it would cost to house the same homeless individuals: Denver Study.

The United States loses many billions if not trillions of dollars in lost productivity annually due to the simple fact that people without adequate health care, when they contract contagious diseases, still have to go to work, take public transportation, still attend public gatherings and events, still eat and shop in public establishments and, their children still attend public schools.  Obviously, people who are sick are not going to be as productive as people who are healthy and quite obviously, untreated contagious diseases get spread around to others, whether they have health care or not who in return, will spread such diseases around to even more people.  Nobody wants common colds, flues and other communicable diseases, regardless of how good of quality our health care may be.

Modern antibiotics may not cure common diseases, but they very much serve to keep them in check and, people who can't afford to go to the doctor and obtain medicine are obviously ticking time bombs endangering the health and welfare of us all.  It is quite literally insane for a modern nation to not insure that everyone within it's borders has access to affordable quality health care.  People without adequate rest, shelter and nutrition sleeping under bridges and otherwise out in the open, are going to get sick much more easily and frequently than people with adequate resources and, they are going to be less physically able to be productive citizens.  Disease knows no economic, political or other boundaries and, many once mighty nations have fallen due in large part due to human disease turning into plague.

In many nations with universal and considerable better health care than the majority receive in the United States, like Japan for example, the average citizen pays about the same and many pay even less taxes than average citizens in the United States and yet, they receive much better government-paid benefits back in return.  Some Europeans pay higher taxes, but they receive much better benefits like free child care and guaranteed lengthy paid vacations, along with universal and better quality health care back in return, thus at the bottom line they pay less out of pocket than our citizens.  U.S. citizens are taxed much more than many realize when federal income taxes and social security, workers compensation, state, county, local, sales, gasoline and other taxes and fees are combined.  While not covering nearly adequately the vast disparity between what U.S. citizens receive compared to what citizens in other nations receive for their tax dollars, the Article Linked Here provides some good examples.

One of the main reasons we receive a lot less benefits back from our government for taxes paid in, is because private health insurance companies are quite literally, sucking trillions of dollars out of our economy, meanwhile providing no legitimate necessary function in return. Instead of having a relatively simple organized universal health care system, our U.S. system is a great mass of bloated, redundant and often indecipherable confusion, which drains immeasurable employee hours and immeasurable dollars from hospitals and other actual medical providers in paperwork alone, while providing our citizens on average, with less quality health care than thirty-six nations above our global ranking of #37 in the world, including some of what are traditionally considered to be "third-world" nations.  Many U.S. citizens have horror stories of being put on hold for long periods of time when trying to deal with private insurance companies--horror stories of often very sick people who are recovering from serious operations and illnesses, who are mentally and emotionally run through the wringer by private insurance companies reluctant to pay their end of the bargain.

The other main reason we receive far less bang for our tax dollar buck is that the United States spends a far greater percentage of GDP on military appropriations than any other nation on earth.  And to add insult to injury, unlike nations with taxpayer supported health care systems, in the United States corporations and other companies spend trillions of dollars insuring their workers, which results in much higher prices for goods and services than consumers otherwise would pay.  There is no free ride for health care; somebody is going to pay dearly for what companies compensate their workers and, that "somebody" is every U.S. consumer.

To compare, the United States currently spends about 16% of GDP on health care, while the next highest nation France, spends about 11% and, every other nation on earth spends less than France, even though 36 nations have better quality health care than we receive in the United States.  And unlike here where many millions of citizens have no health coverage and many more have inadequate coverage, in nations with universal health care, all citizens are covered.  See Should We Care if Everyone has Health Care? for related information.

Homeless Statistics.  For related information, see Can We Afford to House the Homeless? also, Is Music City Becoming the Meanest City in America? and Where is the Great American Dream?.




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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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