Study: Half of Iraq war veterans homeless

Jacksonville veteran gets help; Sulzbacher Center serving more vets

Published On: Dec 01 2011 10:41:31 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 01 2011 11:11:07 AM EST
Veterans Farm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Some men and women who have put everything on the line to fight for our country say they now feel betrayed by the country they were sworn to protect.

A study just released by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans shows that more than half the men and women returning from Iraq will be homeless for at least two years.

Robert Brown, a 13-year veteran of three different branches of the military, is one of more than 100,000 homeless veterans in America. He says he feels like coming home was the biggest battle he's faced.

"I feel betrayed," Brown said.

Brown said his wife left him during his deployment, so he had no home to return to. He said it took him nearly a year to get his disability check, and he would lose his benefits if he got a job.

Brown said a program called the Veterans Farm -- a place that rehabilitates veterans through farming -- was his saving grace. But Brown said he knows plenty of guys who weren't so lucky, and many of them are living on the street.

As the Iraq War winds down and more troops are returning home, it's a growing problem for the Department of Veterans Affairs. After California, Florida has the second-highest population of homeless veterans. Many of those are in Jacksonville, a city with the third-highest military population in the nation.

While nearly half of homeless veterans are from the Vietnam War, the VA estimates that there are at least 3,700 who spent time serving in operations in or around Iraq were in its homeless outreach programs as of last year.

In anticipation of growing numbers of veterans in need of service, the Sulzbacher Center is trying to add a second floor dedicated strictly to veterans.

"The veterans are coming back. They're not getting the mental health help they need," said Cindy Funkhouser, of the Sulzbacher Center. "They medicate and then they are on the street."