Many Americans often pay tribute to veterans on holidays, but what happens when the fanfare fades and it’s time to go home?
For most Americans, that means a bed. But for the veterans they were honoring, that can mean a stoop, an alley or a shelter.
“On average, there’s about 2,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in Arizona,” said Joan Serviss with the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, adding that 60 percent of those are in Maricopa County.
Serviss said the homeless veterans include both those from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and earlier wars.
“A lot of the veterans experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or they experience a traumatic brain injury,” she said.
Serviss said the combination of possible injury, psychological damage suffered in combat and possible substance abuse create a vicious cycle for veterans, one that is difficult to extricate themselves from.
“There’s just a deterioration of their environment and then they end up becoming chronically homeless veterans living on the streets,” said Serviss, adding that it’s difficult to discern a homeless person from a homeless veteran.
According to Serviss, the number of homeless veterans have increased since the downturn of the economy.
To donate to the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, go to azceh.org.