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Blacks Comprise 45 Percent of Homeless Vets

New Report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness

 A shocking 45 percent of the nation's estimated 131,000 homeless veterans are African-American, according to a new report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a well-known advocacy and research organization.
 
And, just as shocking, according to the alliance, is the reality that a staggering 42 percent of the the nation's total homeless population is African-American.
 
The report was issued on the heels on a pledge made by President Barack Obama to end homelessness among veterans within five years.  
 
Based on a study that included data from the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and veterans medical facilities nationwide, the report was prepared by M. William Sermons, Ph. D., director of the Alliance's Homelessness Research Institute, and Megan Henry, its research associate.
 
Based on data it collected and analyzed in 2008, the Institute found that some 1.6 million people used the shelter system during 2008, while an estimated 664,722 citizens were homeless at some point in time during that year.
 
No data for homelessness among African-American veterans is available for the years preceding 2008. 
 
Sermons, interviewed yesterday by BlackAmericaWeb.com, said a number of factors give rise to the high rate homelessness among black veterans.
 
"Some of the risk factors affecting African-American men are high unemployment rates (almost double that of whites) and highly disproportionate rates of discharge from prisons and the foster care system," Sermons said.
 
The data analyzed by the alliance does not contain breakouts for African-Americans according cities or states, Sermons said.  However, California and New York lead all states in homeless populations, while Detroit has the highest number of homeless people per capita among cities nationwide, Sermons said. 
 
While the alliance cannot pinpoint the cities and states with the highest concentration of black veterans and African-Americans who are homeless, Sermons told BlackAmericaWeb.com, "homelessness tends to be more of a problem for African-Americans in urban centers because blacks to live in urban areas."
 
The alliance, Sermons said, "found a lot of poverty in rural areas, but not as much homelessness as in large urban centers where housing is very expensive."
 
"A lot of people live in poverty and substandard housing in rural areas, but they aren't homeless to the same degree because the cost of housing is much cheaper in rural areas," he explained.
 
BlackAmericaWeb.com interviewed several African-American veterans at a facility in West Los Angeles, where they live in temporary and transitional housing, and another who maintains his own apartment in suburban Westchester.  All of them except the veteran who lives alone were homeless within the past six months.
 
Two of the men suffer from severe trauma incurred during battle. One of the two trauma victims, a 27-year-old who told BlackAmericaWeb.com that he was a was a patrol and supply specialist during the 2003 Iraq incursion, said he is "still haunted by anger, depression and nightmares."
 
After "bouncing from one program to another," he said, the young veteran, who had been homeless since 2007, decided to enter the West Los Angeles facility. 
 
"I'm getting better," he said, without delving into the treatment modalities available for him there. Born in Dallas, Texas, he served from 2001 through 2004 and was honorably discharged with the rank of E-4.
        
Another veteran, from Baltimore, Maryland, said he's been in that program for two weeks. Now 58, he's confined to the area until Nov. 25 because of a long drug history. "I'm not going anywhere, believe me. I don't want to go anywhere. This time, I'm going to stay. Everything I need is right here," he said.
 
I'm tired of living on the streets."
 
The veteran who lives alone and is also secretary of the group of 40 men who meet each Friday support each other in sobriety, said that "black veterans are homeless in higher numbers than whites and other ethnics because of racism and the bureaucracy. A lot of us are homeless because we don't have any jobs or money after we're discharged, and the system takes so long to pay us the money we're owed."
 
That veteran, who served in the Navy from 1984 through 1996, said he "slept on the concrete and in alleys and endured panic attacks, nightmares, post traumatic stress."
 
One day, he said, "I just got tired of living like that and went to the West L.A. VA Hospital and said, "If you don't help me, I'm going to kill one of you blond-haired, blue-eyed  people."
 
He said the price for that outburst was 90 days locked up on the hospital's psychiatric ward, "but I got a place to stay and eventually the help I needed."
 
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