Iraq vets and the homeless
By GREGOR McGAVIN
Army Spc. Joshua Harmon headed home from the ongoing war in Iraq on the Fourth of July. It was 2003 and Harmon had spent three months as a machine gunner on the front lines. He was coming home with a lot of baggage. He said there were nightmares and insomnia. Fear, rage and guilt.
He started at the sound of fireworks and snapped for no reason. He said he felt shame for sleeping in a soft bed while his buddies were still in the desert. A year later, Harmon said he was alone and living on the streets, a victim of the mental scars inflicted by combat and the drugs and alcohol with which he tried to heal them. “I’d walk 14-15 miles at a time, because in my mind, I was still on patrol,” said Harmon, a square-shouldered 27-year-old with close-cropped brown hair and an intense gaze.
Stan Lim / The Press-Enterprise
Joshua Harmon is staying at a sober living home for veterans
in San Bernardino. He spent three months in Iraq and wound
up homeless about a year after his return.
Harmon, who has been in a federally funded housing program in San Bernardino for several months, is one of the new faces of homelessness — veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Experts say growing numbers of former servicemen and women — wracked by post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries and struggling with substance abuse and other ills — are winding up on the streets. It is a problem that military and Veterans Affairs officials and homeless advocates are struggling to cope with. A Department of Defense task force reported last week that “the military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict.”