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"Missing in America."

Help for the Veteran

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report  released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off  TV, nobody wanted to hear about it," said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides substance abuse help, job training and shelter to veterans.

"I think they'll be forgotten," Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "People get tired of it. It's not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They'll just be veterans, and that happens after every war."

In all of 2006, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 495,400 veterans were homeless at some point during the year.

What Can We Do To End This Problem?

Get Informed: Understanding homelessness and its causes and in particular the issues that affect homeless veterans is the first step in turning the tide of this national and local problem. Write to your local political representatives, search the web for information, write to your local media. Make your voice heard on behalf of the men and woman who have served our country and now need our help. Homeless veterans have been identified as the "Missing in America." In times of conflict we rightly remember the men and women in the service, but what about the ones who have served and need our help? You can make a difference.

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