I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When Johnny Comes Marching Home...

We've known for 20 years how to solve a lot of these problems on a large scale, and abolitionist reforms are a big part of that agenda. Anyone clued into what the VA in AZ is doing about homelessness and incarcerated vets? I should know that by now without having to dig.

Anyway, hit the link at the bottom for an article about veterans dying for lack of health care.


From the Barracks to the Homeless Shelter
Homelessness Among Vets Persists
New America Media, News Report
Aaron Glantz , Posted: Nov 11, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO – Fifty-four-year-old David Harness carries a red, white and blue Department of Veterans Affairs’ identification card around his neck. His face weathered, his mustache speckled with grey, he looks past the reporter standing in front of him and off into the street.

“Tonight I’m on the street because I don’t have a place to stay,” he says.

Harness has been homeless for much of the last two decades. When he first got out of the Navy in the late ‘70s, he found work at San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, repairing a host of war vessels and commercial ships that came in for repair.

Since the shipyard shut down in 1994, Harness has hardly had any work.

“It’s hard for veterans because if you don’t have a place to clean up, take a shower, do what you got to do, how you gonna get a job?” he asks.

Harness is not the only veteran in this difficult situation. A new study released Tuesday by the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that approximately 131,000 veterans were homeless at some point in 2008. One out four homeless people, and one out of three homeless men, is a veteran.

According to the report, veterans were more than twice as likely to be homeless as those who never served in the military. And while most of the veterans sleeping on the street had fought in earlier wars, a growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans reported receiving homeless services from the VA.

Black veterans are largely over-represented. Despite making up only 10 percent of the veteran population, they make up 45 percent of the homeless veterans population.

The number of homeless veterans is “shocking,” according to Steve Berg, the alliance’s vice president.

“Our report shows that the problems that we’ve had for 20 years have not been solved,” says Berg.

If nothing is done, Berg says he expects the number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to rise in the future. That’s because hundreds of thousands of veterans of current wars are coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other mental injuries that – if left untreated – can create a downward spiral that may take years to fully realize.

“We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to prevent the problems of the previous generation from repeating themselves,” he says.

There was some good news in the report, however. The alliance reported that the number of homeless veterans had actually dropped since 2007 – from 195,000 to 131,000 in 2008.

That drop was primarily attributed to the government’s early intervention to help veterans before they became homeless – by handing out transitional housing assistance, emergency rent payments, and facilitating “rapid re-housing.”

The report comes one day after Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told reporters in Washington that, “President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among veterans in the next five years.”

In addition to homeless services, the administration’s plan includes “preventive measures” like planning for incarcerated veterans re-entering society, supportive services for low-income veterans and their families and a national referral center to link veterans to local service providers.

“Our plan enlarges the scope of the VA’s efforts to combat homelessness,” said Shinseki. “In the past, the VA focused largely on getting homeless veterans off the streets. Our five-year plan aims also at preventing them from ever ending up homeless.”

On Monday, Berg of the National Alliance to End Homeless declared that he was “cautiously optimistic” about Shinseki’s proposals.

On the streets of San Francisco, Harness, the Navy veteran, offers a reality check to policymakers in Washington.

“I’m seeing a lot of young people on the street who are 24 or 25 and they look like they’re really not taking care of themselves,” he says.

They shouldn’t wait for help from the government, he says, because that may never come.

“My advice to them is to keep doing what you know best,” he says. “Just do what you can.”

Related Articles in New American Media:

Over 2,200 Vets Died for Lack of Health Insurance in 2008

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