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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Veterans Swelling Ranks of NM's New Homeless

June 14, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A spike in the number of homeless people in New Mexico is being attributed to the growing number of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they re-integrate into the world they left, they find themselves competing for resources needed by the many people hit hard by the economic downturn.

Alan Martinez, deputy cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, says veterans in need of homes are a growing trend for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are already well-known, such as PTSD, he notes.

"A lot of these veterans are coming back, trying to step into the life that they had before they were deployed. Unfortunately, they are coming back different."

Martinez says the drawdown is having a significant impact on the services available for veterans. He says he has heard estimates as high as 30,000 new veterans returning to New Mexico with the military drawdown.

Martinez says multiple deployments can make it harder for veterans to re-integrate, explaining that each deployment can add more to a veteran's burden.

"A lot of them were young kids when they went over on their first deployment. And a lot of them are facing divorce, broken homes, loss of job."

One way New Mexico responds to these issues is through the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center, where Elinor Reiners, the director, says she is optimistic about the prospects for the veterans she serves. She says her organization offers a sense of hope.

"We have a very high percentage of individuals who will go out and find homes and a steady means of income."

Reiners says veterans could use more help from the community in finding jobs that match their skills and in collaborating on public service projects. Another thing that would put a smile on many veterans' faces is getting free tickets to ball games, she adds.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM