Best Practices for Helping our Homeless Veterans

They sleep under bridges and hide in vacant door ways.
We once armed them and told them to:
Defend Us.
Once home they became:
Homeless and Defenseless
Our Government’s Response:
We’re waging new wars
And you’re no longer needed.
You can make our day by
moving out of our way.

Why Have a Homeless Veterans Work Group?

The homeless situation continues to worsen in the United States. Approximately 30% of all homeless are veterans. More soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and many of them are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain damage (TBD) alcoholism, moral fatigue, drug abuse and depression. In most cases these maladies are artifacts from the horrific events they witnessed during their tour of duty.

As a result, many will not be able to cope with civilian every day life situations such as the stress of the workplace and as result will wind up homeless and in an environment that could cause them to run afoul of the justice system.

As an organization one of our goals is to: “Seek justice for veterans and victims of war”.

Our homeless veterans are victims of war and as such it requires the full support of our membership and the community at large.

This will be the work of the homeless veterans work group (HVWG)

Mission Statement:

To act as a vehicle in aiding all the chapters of Veterans for peace, by providing tools that can be used to help homeless veterans and their families.

Our work group will be the repository for various “Best Practices” (proven ways to help the homeless) These Best Practices, gathered from various chapters throughout the United States, have already been proven to help the homeless.

Bottom line, it will enable any chapter in the United States to adopt one or more of these Best Practices and put them into play in their cities.

The Best Practices for Helping our Homeless Veterans document contains a listing of “Best Practices”. Please feel free to review them and select a practice(s) that you believe that you and your chapter/organization can institute in your city. Keep in mind that although we have provided you with details concerning the “Best Practices”, you might still need some additional guidance. Feel free to contact the person who created the “Best Practice” and he/she will provide you with additional information that you may need to successfully launch a program in your chapter and city.

Download Best Practices

Please keep us informed on how successful you were in your efforts and inform us of any ideas on how we can improve the process of communicating these “Best Practices”.

Jack Doxey
Chairperson, Homeless Veterans Workgroup (HVWG)
Original Issue date: 3-14-13
Revision D dated Oct.30, 2013

It’s Not So Pretty in Emerald City

Emerald City, to the casual observer, projects nothing but grace and splendor but hiding around the corners are unwelcome offenders.

They sleep under overpasses and hide in doorways.

They’re always on the move, not because they want to, but because they’re told to.

Homeless veterans are the hardest to witness.

We armed them and commanded them to Defend Us

Upon their return home they became homeless and defenseless.

Our government responds with the following indifference:

“You did your job and no longer needed. You say you can’t find a job and you’re homeless? Don’t look at us we’re blameless.

We’re starting new wars so don’t distract us. You’re all washed up and inactive and you’re no longer attractive.

So make our day by getting out of our way.”

Imagine if…

For a few brief moments, let’s suspend what happened in our country after 9/11 and think about how things could have been so completely different if our country had taken a different direction.

Imagine if we had not entered into war with Iraq and Afghanistan how different our country and the world would be today. Imagine if, as a nation, we paused after 9/11 and decided not to retaliate but instead brought the entire issue before the world of nations and sought a solution that did not involve violent retaliation against other people.

the goodwill and gratitude that our country would have garnered as a result of making a commitment to peace rather than violence.

Imagine, no endless grieving on the part of the families of 6000 lives lost and no elaborate memorials being erected in memory of them.

Yet this opportunity slipped out from under us .A moment in history that, if pursued differently, would have changed the whole dynamics of our lives not only in this country but throughout the world.

Imagine if we had not spent over a trillion dollars to wage wars thousands of miles from our shores that in no way challenged the security of our country. This money could have been used wisely to satisfy so many of the serious issues that exist in our country and cry out for attention.

Imagine if we had more than enough money to administer one of the best educational systems in the world. A system that would fully engage all our teachers as opposed to the current situation of firing teachers and virtually eliminating most of the enrichment programs that past experience tells us can have a profound effect on enriching a child’s overall educational experience. A gift that experience tells us will follow a child for a lifetime.

Imagine being able to provide food, clothing and shelter for every homeless person in the United States, which in turn would enable them to start life anew and become, once again, productive citizens. For the record, San Diego County has a homeless population of 9000 people of which approximately 3000 are veterans. Instead of helping the homeless, Congress has recently passed a stand alone Veterans Affairs Budget that will strip away Six Billion Dollars in funding for our veterans.

What Happened?

Look at the deplorable condition of the infrastructure in our county. Roadways and bridges are literally falling down upon us and our government tells us that we don’t have the money to take action to fix them. This is not true. We have the money but we have consistently misused the money.

In other words a disproportionate amount of this countries wealth is being squandered on wars and the military industrial complex resulting in an almost total neglect of the needs and expectations of our country and its citizens.

In spite of the billions spent on war, the young people that must put themselves in harms way are consistently neglected by our government.

Bob Herbert, a columnist for the New York Times said it best:

“I would bring back the draft in a heart beat. Then you wouldn’t have these wars that last a lifetime and you wouldn’t get mind bending tragedies like the death of Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler, a 29 year old that was killed a few weeks ago while serving in the army in his 12th.combat tour. That’s right his 12th tour in Iraq”.

To allow this to happen to even one soldier is unconscionable. Our military saw fit to codify this mistreatment calling it “Stop Loss” and subjected more than just Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler to this inhumane treatment.

However, I still believe that there are no problems in our country that are unsolvable if enough people “get involved”.

Imagine if just a small amount of people were totally dedicated to making a profound difference. If as little as 3 to 5 % of the American population rose up against the injustices in our country it would have the force of a tidal wave and our government would be forced to listen and make the changes necessary to bring back some sanity in the governing of our country.

By Jack Doxey
Veterans For Peace
San Diego Chapter 91

Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

In his book “Empire of the Illusion”, Christopher Hedges clearly and convincingly, makes a strong argument that American citizens now live in a society that consistently works at dumbing down America. He illustrates his point by the following statement:

“This culture of illusion thrives by robbing us of the intellectual and linguistic tools to separate illusion from truth. It reduces us to the level of children.”

The author goes on to state:

“Our televisions are turned on for 6 hrs and 47 minutes a day in the average household. The average American watches, daily, more than 4hours of television.”

Our government and our society, in general, encourage this type of behavior for a reason. They want the American public to be distracted in their pursuit of trivia, which in turn, enables our government to freely go about carrying out their agenda. Unfortunately, the government’s agenda, more often than not, turns out to be contrary to the best interests of its citizens. For example more than 40% of all taxes collected are earmarked for activities related to war. This misdirection of funds benefits a few at the expense of the many.

What will be the negative consequences of having a uniformed citizenry? It is already happening. The richest 400 people in the United States have a greater net worth than the bottom one half of the population. Put another way, approximately 150 million people, combined, have less net worth than the 400 richest people in the United States. For me, personally, this is a staggering statistic that I find hard to wrap my mind around and it didn’t happen by accident.

Some young people, with four year degrees, can’t find a job and resort to removing their college education from their résumé in order not to appear overqualified when competing with high school graduates for a low paying entry job. Many people seldom enter into critical thinking and instead spend a great deal of time watching sports and reality shows on television. This almost total lack of intellectual curiosity will result in our liberties being, slowly but surely, taken aware from us. Intelligence and ignorance are not the same. Most people are reasonably intelligent but, at the same time they can be ignorant. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge and apparently no desire to seek knowledge.

We can’t look to our government to watch out for our interests or correct our societal problems. Almost all solutions, by necessity, must be accomplished by the people from the bottom up. As a matter of fact almost all important change happened with the dissent of a few people. Margaret Mead, a renowned anthropologist, had this to say: “Never doubt the effectiveness of a few people dedicated to a cause in making important change. As matter of fact it is the only way that true change has ever occurred”. So let us have heart but do realize that we all have our work cut out for us.

by Jack Doxey
Veterans For Peace, San Diego, Chapter 91

An Opportunity To Visit Your Congressional Representatives

An experience that will keep you coming back to Veterans for Peace

If this is the first time you are visiting our web page, congratulations to you and let me be the first to welcome you aboard. Something has aroused your curiosity and brought you to this location. I’ll bet you’re wondering: “What kind of an organization are we and why would I want to join?” I know exactly how you feel because I was in the same position about 8 years ago.

Well let me start by telling you what we aren’t. We aren’t a group of old veterans sitting around drinking beer and telling each other war stories. Quite the contrary. We’re activists and get out and actively promote the five goals that we have set out for ourselves. By the way you can find our five major goals on this web page.

One specific thing that we do is to engage our five local congress people in dialogue on issues that are important to our cause. So if you’re the type that likes to roll up your sleeves and get directly involved in issues that relate to our veterans than you have come to the right place

Here’s another thought: Have you ever found yourself yelling at the TV? I’ll bet you were watching the national news and trying to digest, in one night, all the bad news without going completely nuts. You turn off the TV and continue to mutter to yourself or worse take it out on a family member. The dialogue goes somewhat like this:

“What the hell is going on with our government. Why can’t they see what needs to be done and why aren’t they doing something to correct the total mess and inaction that is dragging our country and its people down?”

Your head hits the pillow that night and a profound feeling of hopelessness overcomes you. I think most of us have experienced this or something very similar but don’t become discouraged. You can constructively use some of that pent up emotion by finding out who your congressperson is and with the support of our organization go pay him/ her a visit.

The whole process is pretty straight forward and can be exhilarating and at the same time be discouraging if they don’t buy into what you want them to do. But I do guarantee that it will be an experience that you won’t quickly forget.

Here is a sample of some of the issues that we have campaigned for with our five representatives in San Diego County:

  • Agent Orange legislation (Hr 2634)
  • School of the Americas (HR3368)
  • Veterans for Peace Sleeping bag project
  • Alarming amount of suicides amongst duty service personnel and veterans
  • Incompetence of the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • End the wars and reduce defense spending

From our experience of interacting with our five congress people we came away with an overriding conclusion that you must have an extra amount of tenacity in order to get an audience with them. We have five congress people in the county of San Diego and Imperial County and we do have some that are very accommodating. But for the most part, they attempt to avoid you because they are “busy elsewhere.” My thought is what can be more important than meeting with your constituents.

A lesson we learned is that it is not enough to just make a presentation when meeting with them. What we should require from our representatives is that they take action on our requests. Put another way, we want deliverables from them.

Keep in mind that in many cases you will have to repeatedly email and call them to get an appointment. In some cases, we actually picketed their office and embarrassed them into meeting with us. (See the accompanying picture of the Veterans for Peace picketing outside the office of Representative Brian Bilbray.)

I hope I didn’t make the experience sound impossible. It is not but it does take a lot of tenacity to get an appointment so when we do pin them down and get a date for a meeting we do our homework and come prepared to make it productive for ourselves and hopefully the congress person as well.

Here is how the process works:

1. First, get a firm commitment from your chapter or organization that the members will support all the effort required to interact with your congressional representatives. If the support is there than proceed to the following steps:

2. Create a complete, accurate listing of all the congressional representatives for your city/county. For example in San Diego we have a total of five congressional representatives. Information to include in the listing is such things as the Washington DC office address and all the staff that report to the congress person. Make sure that the spelling of the names is accurate. Include their titles and get to know the staff so that you can freely communicate with them. Make the same type listing for the local office and include telephone numbers and email and fax numbers. It is important that the information is periodically updated so that you have the ability to contact the right person at the right time.

3. Set a goal as to how often you want to visit your congress people. For example, we meet at least once a year with each of our representatives.

4. Contact your first representative and make an appointment to visit with them. Determine how much time they will allocate to you. Typically it is one half hour to forty five minutes.

5. Develop an agenda and include in the agenda the deliverables you want from your representative. It is not enough to simply provide your opinion on a subject and then leave. You should indicate the importance of the issue and than specifically tell them what action you want them to take.

6. Follow up with a thank you letter and indicate that you will follow up with them to determine what action they have taken. In most cases they will “blow you off” and not respond to your calls or emails. You must be persistent and let them know that you will not go away until they give you a decision regarding your requests.

Congressional Checklist:

1. Research their voting record and come prepared to discuss those areas that concern you.

2. Narrow the discussion down to one or two topics.

3. Leave the congress people with what I call leave behind material. It should further explain the points that you made at the meeting and state what specifically you want them to do.

4. Make every attempt to keep the environment cordial. No sense making enemies.

5. Have a written agenda and list all attendees, both your organization and the congress person and his staff.

6. Those members assigned to speak should display brevity. Encourage them to practice before the actual meeting to ensure that they don’t go over their allotted time.

7. Encourage feedback. Don’t allow the congress person or his staff to go mute.

8. Keep the verbiage and visual aids down to a minimum.

Here is some important information that will help you get started:

If you don’t know who your representative is and it can get tricky with the new redistricting that is going on you can call the capital switchboard at 1-202-224-3121. You will get a live person and they will ask you to provide them with your zip code. Be prepared to give them the 9 digit zip code. With this information they will tell you who your representative is and will immediately put you in touch with their office.

If you want to know how your representative is voting on the important issues simply go into the internet under “mega voting” and you will be informed of the current bill being pushed through congress and how your representative is voting on each of the issues.

Keep in mind that “they work for us” rather than us working for them. Be persistent because most of them unfortunately are representing “other interests” and most often their interests do not match your needs and expectations.

Grace Paley, a short story writer said the following: “One of the strange things about our democracy is that people don’t use it.

Please join us and you will discover that we are not one of the people that Ms. Paley refers to.

War is not Glamorous

I was saddened when I recently read in the San Diego Union Tribune the following headline: US Soldier Kills 16 Afghan Civilians.

Isn’t it ironic that a few days ago (March 16th) marked the 44th anniversary of the My Lai massacre? On that infamous day, a group of American soldiers systematically killed 500 innocent, Vietnamese women, children and infants in the tiny village of My Lai.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is currently in Afghanistan and has denounced the killings in Kandahar and vows in his words, “to bring this killer to justice. Mr. Panetta plans to deliver this message to President Hamid Karzai and other top Afghan officials.

In all due respect Mr. Panetta, just in case you forgot, his name is Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Sgt Bales was physically wounded two times and served 3 deployments in Iraq and one deployment in Afghanistan. But Mr. Panetta you already know all this because the Pentagon policy, over which you preside, is to repeatedly send these brave men back into harms way. Sgt Bales did not want to go back a fourth time but he had no choice.

Sgt. Bales emotionally snapped and the consequences of his actions will directly impact hundreds of Afghan family members and friends in a most horrific way. Sgt. Bale’s wife and children will suffer for the rest of their lives and will be haunted by what he did.

You may argue that the following thought is strange or convoluted but I do believe that Sgt. Bales is as much a victim as the people he killed. After three tours of duty I can assure you that he suffered some psychiatric damage and was not fit to go back into combat.

A World War II study found that after 60 days of continuous combat 98% of all soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. War is death. War wipes out tenderness and delicacy and leaves soldiers emotionally and physically bankrupt. Our military does a disservice to our young impressionable kids when they depict war as glamorous.

Here is what President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to say about the folly of constantly promoting and entering into wars:

“Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket that is fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world, in arms, is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hope of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.”

At this very moment, all of our soldiers in Afghanistan are in grave danger.  Despite the vast array of killing tools our country has had at its disposal, over the last ten years, we have lost the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Without a doubt, we have unconditionally lost this war. All the Pentagon and military propaganda will no longer convince the American public to think otherwise.

Let’s salvage the most important asset we have in Afghanistan, namely our sons and daughters. Let’s bring them home “right now” and allow them to live with and among their family, friends and loved ones.

Let’s remove the “insanity” from their lives. That is the very least that we can do for them.

War is not Glamorous
Jack Doxey
Vice President of Veterans for Peace
San Diego California Chapter
March 20, 2012