When does a homeless veteran
become a homeless person first and a veteran second?
While researching the issue of
homelessness in North Carolina, I came across this article in the
Fayetteville Observer. In short, plans to open a 24-bed shelter for veterans
were abandoned after homeowners complained that the shelter’s residents would
endanger their neighborhood.
Fayetteville is a city that
genuinely cares about veterans. Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division,
is located nearby. Many ex-soldiers call Cumberland County home. Fayetteville even
adopted the slogan “World’s first
sanctuary for soldiers.” Yet, residents
in arguably the most pro-veteran city in the United States did not want
homeless veterans in their neighborhood.
Most people recognize that there is
poverty in our communities, and, as my travels this summer have shown me, there
are a lot of North Carolinians working to alleviate it. I’ve met a couple
trying to convert an abandoned
jailhouse into a shelter, a police officer who is on a first-name basis with many of her
city’s homeless residents, a Veterans
Administration social worker helping veterans get off the streets,
and volunteers who serve breakfast to the poor almost every day.
But, living with poverty seems to be something quite different. During
the course of my research, I heard about neighborhoods (both rich and poor) that
have petitioned against shelters being set up in their vicinity. I also learned
of government officials concerned that public facilities would attract homeless
people to the touristy part of town. We’ll drive to an out-of-the-way
neighborhood to try to help the homeless, but we refuse live with them.
I think there are several reasons
why we insist on this separation between us and the homeless. There are practical
concerns about safety and property values. There is also the difficulty of squaring
our belief in the greatness of the United States with the fact that many of our
fellow Americans live in abject poverty.
Whatever the reason, the answer
to the question posed in the beginning of this post seems to be that a homeless
veteran becomes simply another homeless person when there is a possibility that
he or she may move in down the street.
Posted by Galo V. Centenera on Wed. August 8, 2012 2:57 PM