Yesterday as Ella and I were winding up our day in Manhattan I was sitting at the elevator entrance to the Fulton st subway while Ella used the bathroom at a restaurant before we headed home, while I waited I saw a very ill barely able to walk even with the cane he had man stumbling toward me crowds who had just ironically came from the freedom tower the very sight every soldier went to war for.
This guy was obviously homeless and everyone was giving him a wide berth thinking he was high or drunk or both, but I noticed the soldiers cross tattoo on his right forearm and I asked him if he was ok.
He mumbled a barely audible reply and I realised he wasn’t drunk, he obviously had a physical and possibly a mental disability. I offered him water and a seat next to me and we talked.
He hadn’t eaten in three days, he hadn’t slept indoors for a week, I asked about hostels and shelters? He explained he would get to the shelter front door by 4pm each day and line up and the manager would come out and give a number, for instance “we have 60 beds” and if your number was 61 tough shit.
He also told me even if you were placed there by a social worker you had to surrender your bed every morning by 6am and line up every day, no two days were guaranteed in a row? We were surrounded by fast food joints so we gave him $5.
As we talked I learned he had enlisted straight out of high school, he had seen action in the troubles in the former Yugoslavia, he had been to central America he had been to the first gulf war he had served his nation all over the world till one day his Humvee flipped.
He received a severe closed head injury and a broken hip and leg, they discharged him.
It took three years to get treatment, he was a highly qualified welder in the army so he worked on high rise construction but on good days he tolerated the head aches and the leg pain he stuck it out for a few years and then it was too much. The VA told him “it can’t be too bad you work” the medical insurance from the job said “sorry it’s preexisting” his family eventually said “it’s too much” the bank said “the house is mine” The VA said “too difficult” and this proud veteran who saw action on three continents wonders the financial district and sleeps under bridges.
The VA use the homeless to pad out their “we cured them” stats, when they become homeless they lose their military pension, they stop being able to afford to get to appointments so the’yre crossed off as cured?
He didn’t beg, he didn’t ask for a damn thing, and I tell you it was difficult to get him to accept it. Finally we left him with the address of an agency I know that will help, they can even house him and we gave him money for food and he got to sit down for 30 minutes and no one shooed him away.
Happy fucking Fourth of July huh?
86% of all our nations homeless are veterans more than
75% of that number live with severe PTSD and other injuries both mental and physical but the system is so broken while they wait for the VA to get their heads out of their asses and do their jobs the veterans lose everything but the first to go is their dignity and self-respect.
We did more for this veteran in 30 minutes than the entire federal system has done in a year, how many homeless have you rushed past quickly? Sometimes all they need is for someone to say “are you okay” and listen, who cares if they ramble be humane, be compassionate and just be there for the few minutes they need you.
Each year at Christmas Ella and I collect scarves and gloves and beanies and hats with ear flaps and socks and we give them away to the homeless as the snow sets in, try it the first smile makes it so worthwhile and remember these people swore an oath to even die for you if necessary should they be left to die alone under a bridge in a house made of boxes just because you don’t have the time?
EVERY SOLDIER SWEARS AN OATH TO LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND IN BATTLE LETS CARRY THAT OATH ON FOR THEM WHEN THEY GET HOME.