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VETERANS MAKE UP 33% OF HOMELESS, SURVEY SAYS.

Byline: Associated Press

One-third of homeless men seeking shelter are veterans, mostly combat veterans from the Korean, Vietnam or the Persian Gulf wars, according to a Veterans Day survey released Saturday.

``War is something that breaks people,'' said Phil Rydman, spokesman for the International Union of Gospel Missions, a network of rescue missions that conducted the survey.

``Some people are not able to get back into civilian life because of what they have experienced in the conflict setting.''

Rydman said that what used to be called ``shell shock'' and is now referred to as post-traumatic stress syndrome sets in at different times, accounting for the continuing flow of Vietnam War veterans into missions 20 years after the war.

The survey of 11,000 men seeking shelter in 58 missions in late October showed 32 percent were veterans. By comparison, Veterans Administration figures show about 19 percent of the male population are former members of the armed forces.

In the missions' survey for Veterans Day 1996, the percentage of veterans among the homeless was slightly higher, 34 percent.

Of the homeless veterans surveyed this year, 42 percent were Vietnam War veterans. Vietnam War vets represent only about 10 percent of the overall veteran population, according to figures from Vietnam Veterans of America and the VA.

Stephen Burger, executive director of the missions, said Vietnam War veterans continue to fall through the cracks, often after multiple divorces and struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.

``We're still getting new Vietnam veterans. They're still falling out of the system,'' Burger said. ``That should be a little shocking to us.''

``They didn't come back and become homeless. They came back and became part of the community, and then things happened that made them become homeless,'' he said. ``Many of these people are struggling with identity. They are struggling with guilt.''

Rydman noted that 10 percent of the veterans surveyed by the shelters had served in the Korean War in the early 1950s and another 10 percent in the Gulf War in 1991.

The survey showed that 71 percent of homeless veterans have honorable discharges. An added 24 percent had general or medical discharges, and only 5 percent reported dishonorable discharges.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Nov 9, 1997
Words:365
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