Saturday, July 30, 2011

Local News

I picked up one of the free local newspapers while I was waiting for my burger to be done my way, and was immediately taken with an article about a military veterans group which was going to bicycle half-way across the country in order to publicize the plight of homeless veterans. Here's the online version (which isn't as detailed as the paper version for some reason):

With billions of federal dollars dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans sitting idle, a group of active-duty and former U.S. service members are doing everything they can but sitting idle.

Among aggressive “vet hunting”, which includes scouring homeless camps, overpasses, and parks for homeless veterans, this group has dedicated themselves to a 1,900-mile bicycle ride intended to rally support and federal action in the name of their homeless brothers and sisters.

The ride, beginning Wednesday, July 27 in front of El Monte’s City Hall, will culminate on Wednesday, August 10 in St. Louis, Missouri in front of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. This final stop corresponds with a National Stand Down held in conjunction with the American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The riders include homeless vets staying at a Salvation Army in Bell, former service members who have suffered combat disabilities, and active-duty members part of the non-profit organization, the Vet Hunters.

The riders will have their ride and their mission documented by a film crew, sponsored and narrated by actor Jon Voight.

As I've mentioned before, the greater Los Angeles area has over 8,000 homeless vets, some of whom actually sleep on the sidewalk in front of the Veteran's Administration facilities in Westwood. A goodly number of that 8,000 live here in the San Gabriel Valley, far from the official VA campus, so many of them don't have access to some of the federal programs unless groups such as the Vet Hunters locate them.

The Vet Hunters, whose web site is located here, is an interesting group. It includes not only veterans, but veterans who were or even are homeless. They work to locate vets living under bridges or in out-of-the-way camps and to get them into more stable, if temporary, housing and to hook them up to benefits to which they are entitled. In other words, they're doing the VA's job for them.

The bike ride is intended to get the public's attention on the fact that so many of the men and women who served are living in such deplorable conditions, contrary to all the promises made to them. It's also intended to get the attention of the Veteran's Administration and Congress.

Good on them.



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