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More Veterans Coming Home, Some to Homelessness

December 16, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - As service members who fought in Iraq make their way home in greater numbers with the official end of U.S. combat there, growing numbers are finding themselves homeless.

Brian Baker is assistant director of the South Park Inn Shelter, a weekly drop-in center for homeless vets in Hartford. Baker says he recently got some disturbing news.

"We've gotten word from the folks at the National Guard that they're concerned about 40 of their 350 soldiers coming back not having a place to live. So, these guys haven't even returned yet, haven't even reached the shores, and already we're getting word that they might be homeless."

The drop-in center is a collaboration of many veterans' service agencies, and has seen more than 300 vets pass through the doors since it opened in 2007, says Baker. He notes they are finding more veterans on the streets, and that vets currently make up more than 10 percent of the state's homeless population.

"We also have 20 percent of our fighting force that is female, which was not the case many years ago, as we all know. So, there's particular issues around women veterans, and coming back with PTSD issues."

The drop-in center provides necessities, a sense of camaraderie, and connections to other services, explains Baker.

"We've been going to all the shelters every week and the soup kitchens and putting up posters in places like the library and advertising the drop-in center for any veteran that finds himself homeless, or in need of seeing a veteran service officer."

He adds the program is serving an important need but does not receive any government funding, so it relies on donations.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT