Category Archives: San Francisco

PTSD vets soon coming like tsunami

There is a scary article in the San Francisco Chronicle.  The article predicts a flood of new stressed out veterans as they return form Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are on the fast track to PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders compared to previous wars.   I’ve reprinted a little of it below, but you can find the rest at this link where it is reproduced in SGate.com.   

A flood of stressed vets is expected

C.W. Nevius

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(…) omitted illustrative story about a vet (Tim Chapman) contemplating suicide, find it at the link. 

First a few facts. Bobby Rosenthal, regional manager for homeless programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates that one third of the more than 6,000 homeless people – about 2,100 – in San Francisco are veterans.

And no wonder the number is so high. California leads the nation in homeless veterans by a mile, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The 2006 numbers showed 49,724 homeless vets in California. The next nearest state was New York with 21,147.

Now here’s the scary part. Compared with what’s coming, that’s nothing.

Roughly 750,000 troops served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with multiple tours of duty. Many are only now returning home. But unlike Vietnam veterans, who didn’t begin to demonstrate post-war trauma until five or 10 years after they left the war, this group seems to be on a fast track.

“Everything is speeded up,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of San Francisco’s Swords to Ploughshares program. “What we’re seeing in San Francisco is guys in their 20s with the kind of stress and trauma that makes it impossible to go on with their lives.”

It’s been called a health care tsunami. Because not only are the Iraq vets prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (something Chapman has battled) but with improved battlefield health care, far more are surviving traumatic injury. On one hand, that’s good news, but it also means many more vets who are severely disabled, having lost arms and legs. Both factors increase the chances that the returning troops will join the sad ranks of homeless veterans.

Cities all over the country are bracing themselves, although some, like San Francisco, are bound to be hit harder. Mayor Gavin Newsom says that at a recent conference of mayors, the group passed a resolution asking the VA “to tell us what you are going to do.”   “It’s great lip service,” Newsom said, “but show me the money.”

If history holds, the mayors shouldn’t hold their breath. If anything, benefits for veterans have been restricted. To take one example, many of us think of the World War II G.I. Bill as a shining example of a reward for service, paying for college for vets. But Blecker, of Swords for Ploughshares, says the current version “is in no way, shape, or form near enough” to pay for a degree.

As Newsom says, “Yeah, support the troops – as long as they are young, healthy and a great photo op.”

For San Francisco, the potential impact could be huge. An influx of traumatized, battle-scarred veterans presents a scary future. Consider the case of Scott Kehler, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who needed years to work through his demons. He recalls passing burned bodies and the constant fear that an explosion would suddenly erupt in the street.

“It was the things I didn’t want to see at night when I closed my eyes,” Kehler said. “I didn’t know what PTSD was. I only knew my dreams, my shame, my guilt, was all coming together.”

(…) omitted a few details, go to link to get the rest.

Kehler, who is mentoring Chapman, is testimony to the effectiveness of the Ploughshares slogan – “veterans helping veterans.”

“Especially now that we’ve got our veterans coming home from Iraq,” said Ploughshares counselor Tyrone Boyd, “we’re going to need people that have been in combat so they know what they are talking about.”

The challenges are unique. Wanda Heffernon, a program and clinical counselor for Ploughshares, said they had a new inductee who slept in the closet. It was the only place he felt safe.

It’s the sudden transition that gets them.  “One day they are fighting in a war,” said Kehler. “The next day they are sitting at their mother’s kitchen table.”

Is it any wonder they end up on the street? Kehler battled alcohol abuse, but Chapman is part of the new breed, who turn to methamphetamine. Married when he returned, he lost his wife and all contact with his parents. Eventually he ended up sleeping in an alley.Now drug-free, living at Treasure Island housing, holding down a full-time job, and reconnected with his mother, he is testimony to the idea that peer counseling seems to work. Ploughshares has earned support from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Imagine the impact it would have on the San Francisco homeless problem if one third of those on street were able to get help and housing.

But what the vets don’t have is funding.

“Why isn’t the federal government doing something about this? Why isn’t the Veterans Administration doing something?” Blecker asks. “The irresponsibility of our leaders, not to address this, makes me want to tear my hair out.”

The VA’s Rosenthal – who gets high marks from local leaders – says the problem is not being ignored.

“It’s a whole new set of challenges,” she said. “The VA is looking at it. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson from Vietnam.”

We can only hope.

“You know what scares me?” asks Boyd. “I haven’t heard a plan (from the federal government) about what they are going to do when the troops come home. What’s the plan?”

Well?

C.W. Nevius’ column appears Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. His blog C.W. Nevius.blog can be found at SFGate.com. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story illustrates what I’ve said all along.  PTSD and TBI are leading causes of homelessness among veterans.  It is a rapidly growing problem, approaching flash flood conditions for our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.   A tsunamis of real people, not just numbers, real people with real names.  Somebody’s sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.  Real people, all in serious trouble, heroes in despair  … we should be crying.  We should be helping, we should be calling on congress, questioning our candidates. 

Where is your voice, America?

Oldtimer  

Homeless Goat Patrol

Homeless Goat Patrol

Provided by: NBC News at 11 Alive News

Last Modified: 10/20/2007 11:25:13 AM

  I was thinking about the plight of Wanderingvet reduced to camping on the hillsides of this great country that has managed somehow to neglect our most needy heroes and then I remembered something I wrote some time ago.    I know he would not take advantage of this situation, but I’m sure some homeless would.   I thought my readers might be interested anyway.A herd of goats is being used to clear away the thick brush on the hills surrounding the Corona Heights neighborhood.  A San Francisco neighborhood has come up with a unique way to ward off homeless squatters.A herd of goats is being used to clear away the thick brush on the hills surrounding the Corona Heights neighborhood. The thickets are popular with the homeless, who set up camps in the brush.Many residents worry that their campfires could spark brush fires, while others complain that dirty needles and other trash is often left behind. The goats have already eaten enough grass, shrubs and small trees to expose several campsites.Residents say using the goats to clear the brush is a gentle way to encourage the homeless campers to move along. Once the goats eat the brush that provides them with shelter and camouflage, the squatters are much less likely to camp on the hillsides.Oldtimer’s Comment: This may be a way to reduce the possiblity of fire on particular hillsides but it is not a practical way to fix the homeless “problem”. The homeless will simply move on down the road a little, the goats will eat up the homeowner’s shrubs and wander into the roads and cause wrecks. Meanwhile a few homeless have the opportunity for some fine dinner roasts.  If the goats are confined to fenced areas on the hillside, eventually the vegitation will be reduced to the point the hillside erodes and possibly comes down.  

When I earlier said “Goats will eat all the way to the ground and even pull stuff up by the roots.” I was wrong.  See Goatlady’s comments below.   This statement is hereby retracted.

You can’t fix problems with ideas that just seem good.  This idea is self-serving for the landowners and designed to hurt the homeless rather than help.   Meantime we need to find compassionate ways to help our homeless neighbors. 

Oldtimer

Here is tragic news about goats from LiveLeak.com:

More than 240 goats were killed Friday morning when a big-rig carrying them tipped over in San Rafael’s Canal area.
Many of the animals, en route to clear vegetation in Mill Valley, suffocated when the rig overturned near Irene Street on “The Loop” traffic route, police said.

The truck, owned by Orinda-based Goats R Us, was transporting about 400 animals from Milpitas to the Golden Gate Theological Seminary when the driver pulled off the freeway for a cup of coffee, police said.

Most of these goats did not have to die.  Some were noticed escaping from the back of the truck and so the truck was closed up and the result was a few dozen got loose, but hundreds killed from suffocation afterward because they could not get out.  Another idea to fix a problem that just seemed good but horribly wrong.

Apparently packing them in tightly is the approved way to transport them, how convienent.