Monday, June 29, 2009

Some veterans of recent wars find homelessness at home

Some veterans of recent wars find homelessness at home
By Jia-Rui Chong
June 29, 2009
It was, back then, a joke Luis Pinto shared with his Army buddies in Iraq. As they were all eating food out of tin cans, living out of rucksacks, moving constantly from place to place, Pinto cracked, "If I become homeless, I'm ready."

But five years later he didn't actually expect to find himself sleeping in alleys in Whittier or in friends' cars, too busy getting high to hold down a regular job. A suicide attempt on March 16 was the shock he needed to start putting his life back together.

His mother drove him to the Salvation Army's shelter in Bell, where he has been living and taking classes on drug addiction and coping skills since the end of March.

"I had a lot of issues from my time in the service and I had not dealt with them," said Pinto, a soft-spoken 27-year-old who still sports a military crew cut. "I felt, when I came out, 'I deserve time to relax and party.' It got out of control."

While veterans and homeless advocates have long grappled with homelessness in previous generations of veterans, Pinto appears to be part of a new, building wave of the problem among those coming back from the latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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