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It is no secret that homelessness is one of America’s most shameful and persistent problems. In the most affluent country in the world, such a problem (in my humble opinion) would not exist if the government had not so burdened its people with exorbitant taxes that are subsequently squandered on pork-barrel projects and used to send our young men and women to fight contrived, illegal, immoral, and unjustified wars in sovereign countries where we have no business. I do not want to get too far off-topic here, but these issues are inextricably linked, and one cannot hope to understand the etiology of one, without being familiar with the reasons for the others.
photos below are just the tip of the iceberg in New York where there are an
estimated 100,000 homeless veterans. Of course there are "shelters" run by the
government (Department of Homeless Services), and referrals made by the
Coalition for the Homeless, but with housing at a premium; prices artificially
inflated by the devaluation of US Currency and the influx of wealthy foreign
nationals from the Middle-East, the problem is worse, and more intractable than
it has ever been.
Agencies and organizations working within the auspices of the government have
done little to alleviate the problem, and have only complicated the issue with
mountains of paperwork and procedural hurdles that consume the majority of the
public funding allocated to "solve" the problem. What are needed are private
citizens to take these matters into their own hands – completely divorcing
themselves from any government influence whatsoever. Indeed, that is what this
ministry has done; we are NOT a 301(c) [tax-exempt] corporation for several
reasons. The most important reason is that like BAVR (see below) accepting
government funding and tax-exempt status brings an organization under the
"thumb" of the government, which – as we see with BAVR – will eventually
complicate the operation so much that the mission fails. Secondly, we believe
that people are inherently generous, and that accepting an incentive from the
government to be charitable (a tax-deduction) robs the giver of intangible but
nonetheless infinitely more valuable blessings that are promised from the Lord:
"Bring ye all the
tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me
now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of
heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to
receive it". –
"Therefore when thou
doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in
the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say
unto you, They have their reward".
– Matthew 6:2
propose is a return to the "old-time" Christian values; where generosity and
charity do not have to be subsidized by the government in order to happen.
I am a veteran; I have
spoken to veterans living on the streets, sleeping in subways, and eating out of
Times Square garbage cans. I have bought them meals, shared "war stories" with
some of them, and expressed my gratitude for their service to this country on my
behalf… young men, mostly… some freshly back from the Iraq wars… sleeping on the
streets! It’s a shame! It breaks my heart that our American Heroes have to live
this way… after all; they are my brothers and my sisters – not only by our
common bond of service to this country, but by the Word of the living God.
"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works". – James 2:15 – 18
The Salvation Army Borden Avenue Veteran's Residence (BAVR)
Arguably "one of the best shelters in the city", was the Salvation Army Veteran's Residence in Long Island City (now closed - see below), but it was a far cry from the comforts of home. The photos do not do justice to the place - there was no privacy, virtually no space to store belongings (each man had a 4-foot high x 4-foot wide locker and a bunk bed), and no room to be the independent individual it takes to make a human being unique.
The social workers and "housing specialists" did virtually nothing to help these men, except to call them into "Independent Living Plan" meetings and draft for them "independent living plans" or schedules, which I would defy ANYONE to follow. They have also been known to refer vets to people who have "rooms for rent", but are not actually the landlords, or are not legally entitled to rent the rooms. If they DARE to challenge me on this latter statement, I will post IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE to prove my statement.... but for now, my WORD should suffice; if they call me a LIAR, I'll make them look like FOOLS. There was no place at BAVR to charge a cell phone or a computer - except for the "library", which had a only dozen outlets available - but only when the library was open - for over 400 men.
Many of the men who stayed there had drug and alcohol problems, and the bathrooms at night reeked of crack cocaine smoke. The 104th Precinct made almost daily arrests for drug possession there.... again, you don't have to take MY word for it - it's a matter of public record.
In addition, the staff at BAVR had a tendency to lock the rear fire exit at night - substantiated by several complaints filed with the Fire Department and DHS Dept. of Buildings complaint #4202585 8-29-04 and again on 10-15-04 about locked rear fire exit door (bad lighting). They also chained an egress gate in the rear yard. The staff had been repeatedly warned about the danger of blocking the fire exit at the rear of the building (see photo below), and it is only a matter of good fortune that a tragedy never happened at BAVR.
The Salvation Army received $450.00* PER DAY for each resident, from the New York Department of Homeless Services (DHS). These brave men - many of which are disabled mentally, physically, or spiritually because of their honorable service to their country, were not being mistreated, but WERE being little more than warehoused - and the building itself IS a converted warehouse.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the Vets at BAVR had a common bond - a love for their country. This inspired a camaraderie that is difficult to articulate. There are TWO points I wish to make here: 1) There should be NO SUCH THING in the United States of America, as a homeless Veteran, and 2) There is a much better way to help veterans than to subsidize the Salvation Army with TAX MONEY to the tune of $450.00 a day to merely warehouse these men.
* NOTE- The figure of $450 / per day was given to me "in confidence" by the director of Coalition for the Homeless, Fulton Street, NYC in a confidential meeting. I must violate that "confidence" (I never agreed to be silent about it) in order to bring this issue to the public's attention.
The Borden Avenue Veteran's Residence (BAVR) - formerly run by the Salvation Army in a converted warehouse at 21-10 Borden Avenue, Long Island City for many years, after coming under the control of the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has shut its doors permanently on / about Tuesday, August 14, 2007. The 410 veterans who formerly were housed there until they found permanent housing, have presumably been transferred to other city-run shelters.
With the $2-billion
dollars a day being pissed-up-a- rope - longer than the one in
Vietnam - in Iraq, it is glaring proof that THIS
GOVERNMENT DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ITS VETERANS.
Although not anywhere NEAR ideal, BAVR was one of the best shelters in the city. What ended-up being its demise is the fact that little was done to really HELP these men - $450 / day to house them is incentive enough to want to keep them there - and the fact that some non-vets were admitted to the shelter after DHS took over. Drug addiction among the residents - vets and non-vets alike - was a continuous problem often needing police intervention.
10PM CURFEWS for residents kept them from leading normal social lives, and veterans who have fought, and sometimes were wounded and lost limbs in defense of their "freedom", do not operate well under administrative "controls" and regulations resembling that of a minimum-security prison.
Fully 1/3 of the facility was staffed with "social workers" who did little to offer real help to these men who served their country honorably.
What this city needs is a Veteran's shelter RUN by veterans. This ministry (run by vets) would like to start one, but we lack the funding to do it. If any of my readers here have any resources they would like to donate to a worthy cause - something of substantial substance that would help these forgotten heroes - then please do not hesitate to contact me at the phone number / e-Mail address below.
The deplorable conditions in the NY City homeless shelters - BAVR was an exception - with robberies, rapes, and other types of violence - not to mention the deplorable unsanitary conditions in these places, is the reason that many of the homeless prefer to sleep on the street, on park benches, or in the subway - where there is a relative degree of safety because there are always people passing by. Alcoholism and drug addiction are epidemic among homeless veterans; it is a means of emotional escape from their seemingly hopeless condition. People walk by these unfortunate human beings sprawled out on the sidewalk, or covered in plastic garbage bags on the subway as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. Our society has a twisted sense of values. While our fellow man suffers, and is in need of a meal and a place to sleep, some of us engage in conspicuous consumption - purchasing toilet bowls fit for a King - literally! I don't know how YOU feel, but I believe that the country owes these men a better break than what they're getting.
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Art Bernklau, Executive Director