New Ways to Help Homeless Veterans

They didn’t get much attention, but our nation’s leaders are offering fresh, new ideas for helping the more than 75,000 homeless veterans living on the streets on any given night.

Here’s the latest proposal: A congresswoman from New York wants the Transportation Security Administration to give sweatshirts, belts, and other unclaimed clothing left behind at airport checkpoints to homeless veterans, according to MSNBC.

Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., believes the abandoned clothes and accessories would benefit local veterans’ organizations or other local charitable organizations working with homeless veterans and their dependents.

Her plan follows another recent government proposal, as reported by MSNBC: a House Homeland Security Committee wants loose change travelers leave behind at airport checkpoints to go to the USO. In 2010, that amounted to $376,000.

These ideas could certainly make life a little easier for veterans who have lived on the streets for many years. Some of these veterans have been displaced since the Vietnam war and even earlier American conflicts. And many others are recent veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with severe physical and mental disabilities.

But we need much bolder and more ambitious solutions to the prolonged problem of veterans leaving the military and falling into homelessness.  Hopefully that kind of solution is in the works with the federal government’s goal of reducing the number of homeless veterans from 131,000 in 2008 to 59,000 in 2012 by dramatically increasing the VA’s budget for homeless assistance programs.

In the meantime, groups like Veterans Support Organization will continue helping the homeless veterans.  We offer jobs to these needy veterans and give them housing. We also provide donations to other worthy veterans’ agencies like the VA medical centers. My organization has helped hundreds of homeless veterans rebuild their lives and become productive citizens.  

I applaud Rep. Hochel and other congressional leaders for seeking creative ideas to assisting homeless veterans. Let’s keep the ideas coming -- and let’s give them lots of attention. Homeless veterans can use all of our help.

Richard VanHouten is the founder and CEO of Veterans Support Organization. 

Unemployed Veterans
Work Program
Housing Program
Donations Program