journalist as writer
November 10, 2007 6:47 PM   Subscribe

"Together they panhandled with Nam Vet Needs Help signs at the highway entrance, converted their proceeds into Icehouse beer and Rich & Rare whiskey, and shared their nights in the perpetual dusk beneath the elevated highway, taking turns seeking the full sleep that never came, so loud was the traffic above, so naked were they below, in addled vulnerability.

Every Sunday Dan Barry writes about America in his This Land column for the New York Times.
posted by four panels (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Join the fun at a Homelesness Funtime Campout
posted by Balisong at 6:53 PM on November 10, 2007

Awesome .

Thanks for finding this, four panels.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:51 PM on November 10, 2007

It is depressing the way this government treats its war veterans. Yet I'm constantly seeing these "support the troops" stickers all over the place. Does not compute.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:05 PM on November 10, 2007

I work at an agency in Philly that has a number of different harm reduction oriented housing first programs. My program is under the homeless services umbrella but deals more with the population that is simply too mentally ill, in and out of crisis response centers too frequently, to work in a housing first setting. But most of my clients are also addicts or alcoholics, also. We don't have regulations regarding either medication compliance or clean time, we work with anyone, under all conditions. It makes for some interesting interactions. If nothing else, the job is not dull.

One of my fellow case managers was with the agency when they implemented the housing first model and she has fond memories of how wild and out there the idea was. Nobody in Philly was doing shit like they were, they were literally scooping people up off steam grates and putting them in free apartments. She has a great story about having to pay off a client's crack dealer who was going to hurt him if he didn't come up with the money. She's like, "when you're on a street corner in Kensington handing a wad of cash to some 15 year old named Pookie you know you're involved in something unconventional."
posted by The Straightener at 8:44 PM on November 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

The column topic, previously on Metafilter.
posted by daksya at 10:10 PM on November 10, 2007

Through my highschool, I spent a week at the CCNV just minutes from the mall in DC. It was sobering seeing the people who lived in and around the setting that the center operated.

This was in Jan of 2001, so we go to see the inauguration of the Bush live (along with the protestors) thanks to some Dem. Senators office giving us their inauguration passes.

Anyway, back in the late 70s / 80s they had a 'help the homeless vets' demonstration in DC. Towns from around the country raised money to buy round trip tickets to send their homeless veterans to DC to protest and march and raise awareness. Problem is, when the protest was over, it turns out the tickets were one way, and DC's homeless veteran population atleast doubled overnight.

The situation will only get worse, as we are already getting another 'vietnam' quality batch of veterans with cases of severe PTSD, and our Government has already demonstrated its ineptitude towards treating and providing care for such people.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:09 AM on November 11, 2007

Do we separate out homeless and drunk vets from homeless and drunk non-vets and give help to the one group and ignore the other? That seems where this comment section suggests.We gave GI Bill for vets so why not extend our care here too. And let non-vets shift for themselves.
posted by Postroad at 5:05 AM on November 11, 2007

Do we separate out homeless and drunk vets from homeless and drunk non-vets and give help to the one group and ignore the other?

Not necessarily, no. Vets do have their own service networks above and beyond the homeless services available to everyone else on the street. They can choose to access the same shelters, detoxes, and housing subsidy programs or they can choose to access a separate set of services that are provided by VA hospitals and groups like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans that runs services like The Perimeter in Philly:

Homeless veterans arrive at The Perimeter through referrals from VA medical centers and community-based service providers, and through Philadelphia Multi-Service and Education Center (PVMSEC) outreach initiatives. Once inside The Perimeter, the veteran has immediate access to showers, haircuts, other hygiene services, food, clothing, laundry and bathroom facilities, emergency shelter, counseling, referrals to services, and transportation assistance. The Perimeter accommodates both men and women veterans, regardless of their VA eligibility status.

There's also a network of rehabs for vets that are run by the VA, like the big Dept of Veterans Affairs Medical Ctr Substance Abuse Treatment Unit in Coatesville, PA. That's where a lot of the vets who go into detox in Philly will eventually wind up for long term rehab stays.
posted by The Straightener at 6:07 AM on November 11, 2007

It's not that only the vets get or deserve help, it's that when the government essentially helped cause these people's destruction, they need to step up to help them after the fact.
My city is a hub for homeless (they travel here in the winter) and I would say at least 1/4 (probably more) of the ones over 50 are Vietnam Vets.
posted by fructose at 7:14 AM on November 11, 2007

First, he says, the complaints reflect no understanding of the grip of alcoholism: Do you really think these men and women would rather live on the streets? Second, the cost to the public appears to have dropped as the number of visits to the emergency room, jail and the sobering center has plummeted.

Good on them. This sounds like an excellent harm-redution approach. The residence for homeless chronic alcoholics reminds me a lot of needle-exchange programs and methadone clinics.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:17 AM on November 11, 2007

The Vietnam Vets are going to become far less of a priority as soon as the Iraq War vets start hitting the streets. The Times had a great story the other day about the trickle that's started, which could become a deluge in years to come. Homeless service providers have been talking about this ever since the war started; I'm actually surprised more guys haven't started showing up in drop in centers yet but I was working until recently at an agency that runs a very heavily trafficked drop in center in Philly and while we were expecting them by now we hadn't seen any quite yet.

Expect that to change, though, and maybe change dramatically, and maybe soon.
posted by The Straightener at 7:30 AM on November 11, 2007

If you think the story of the above ground homeless is depressing and disturbing, go back and read Mole People, even if it is over 10 years old now.
posted by absalom at 10:01 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

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