American Morning

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August 19th, 2009
10:55 AM ET

Follow-up: Homeless veterans

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Michael Anderson, a Vietnam veteran, began writing poetry in prison – mainly about military service."]

By Barbara Starr

As part of American Morning series on veterans returning home I recently visited New Directions, a homeless shelter program in Los Angeles that has been helping addicted and troubled veterans since 1982.

Across the country there are now about 130,000 homeless veterans, many from the Vietnam era, but tragically some back from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown up on the streets. What we found is those who served in the Vietnam era are now reaching out a hand to the younger generation, doing what they can to make sure the youngest homeless vets get help.

If you saw our piece you might have noticed 60-year old Michael Anderson, a homeless vet who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. He was sent to prison from 2006 to 2008 on domestic violence charges and while in prison began writing poetry—mainly about military service. At the end of this blog please take a moment to read “Where Broken Soldiers Go.” I think you will be amazed.

By the way, the reaction to the homeless veterans piece has been touching, and troubling—underscoring the tragedies that are occurring. New Directions tells me they have received many phone calls reacting to the piece. A woman in Connecticut called, she now wants to start a similar program. Veterans called the shelter just to say thank you for helping, others called wanting to know what they could send in the way of help.

But perhaps one of the most concerning ... A woman called saying her brother, a young veteran was last seen a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, troubled and demanding to be left alone. The family believes he is still out there on the streets homeless and they are desperate to find him. They thought maybe New Directions, which has its staff on the streets every day looking for homeless vets, might have seen him. The staff now has the man’s name and description and as they move around Skid Row and other homeless encampments around the city they will keep an eye out, and ask if anybody knows anything about this young veteran.

But there’s one place they won’t be able to ask. We went with New Directions to a dismal location under a Los Angeles freeway. Homeless Americans, including some veterans, had set up a tent and cardboard encampment there. One man we saw even had a broom and was sweeping and cleaning up when we visited with outreach workers from New Directions who came to pass out small bags of food and water on a brutally hot summer day. New Directions tells me the Los Angeles Police just dismantled the camp. No one can yet tell me where these homeless Americans have gone.

Now just read Michael Anderson’s latest poem and remember this homeless older Marine Corps veteran who still is coping with addiction, who served nearly forty years ago, still squares his shoulders, looks you in the eye and still says “Semper Fi.”

Poem: Where Broken Soldiers Go
New Directions: How you can help

Filed under: Military • The War at Home
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. S Callahan

    Beautiful artilcle Barbar Starr.....I'm just surprised there isn't more follow up on the what is available out there for the broken solider....

    Michael Anderson prothetic poem actually says it all. Help can not just be one human to's much deeper....holistic centers need to be encouraged and funded....this is inclusive of mind, body, and spirit....when all is addressed then real healing can take place.
    Our country has taken the spiritual element out of healing.....yet that is exactly what needs to be touched for real healing to take people are left with the option of begging, saving , or hoping to be gifted to places like TheLastResortpa for deliverence of all the demons (psychological, addictions, hopelessness). I hope the attention on Michael is not brief....he needs us as much as we need him.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  2. michael armstrong sr.

    This is sad that warriors give up on themselves and the people who love them but all and all it;s up to them to try to better themselves because a person has to want help to be helped .

    August 20, 2009 at 5:42 am |
  3. Jerry Bohr

    At least part of the reason most veterans now days are homeless is because their benefits are not know and also stripped by local state courts who have violated federal laws to benefit themselves. The United States code 38 Title 5301 has be violated by state court Judges everyday and no-one seems to care? So if you want to really do a story about homeless veterans, start looking at the laws that are being violated! Take action with the words you speak when talking about veterans. We have very few people who will do anything, that includes congress and senate. They do like to take a picture with a veteran makes them feel good. What a waste. Words without action are the same ole politics and media trying to show a veteran they care..........

    Jerry G. Bohr
    Veteran for Veterans

    August 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  4. August

    New Direction receives massive taxpayer support to forced the homeless veterans to convert to the Evangelical Christianity & 12-Step Religious Cult; if the homeless veterans refuse the forced religion they are throw back to the streets. It is jammed-packed living conditions with ABSOLUTELY NO PRIVACY ALLOWED. They receive massive tax dollars for food, but the food is all ROTTEN & DONATED food-bank discards.

    The only veterans that make it through are the veterans waiting for a disability check; non-mental, non-addicted veterans are left to the streets and not allowed in because of the One-Size-Fits-All program

    Call them up and ask if they help homeless veterans without forcing the 12-Step Religion on them, come on...Do it!

    August 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  5. nancy

    In the USA ~~ there should NOT be such a thing as a HOMELESS VETERAN. They gave so much to keep this great country free.

    August 19, 2009 at 11:34 am |