Friday, December 7, 2012

From serving their country to sleeping on its streets

From serving their country to sleeping on its streets
DEC 06, 2012

What most people fail to realize, as they avert their eyes and pass by, is that roughly a quarter of the nation’s homeless are veterans – the same people who, like Vasquez, once devoted their lives in service of their country.

All across Chicago, homeless people stand on street corners and huddle in doorways.

Their possessions are reduced to a couple of plastic bags. Some sell newspapers to make money, others display crudely scrawled cardboard signs and jangle cups of change. Sometimes they speak out, but most of the time they’re silent.

The homeless, who seem unpredictable, make many Chicagoans uncomfortable.

They shouldn’t worry, said Vietnam veteran Jose Vasquez. Most of the homeless “are kind of shy,” and while “some panhandlers can get a little overbearing, but that’s what they do. A normal homeless person … they’re not going to hurt you.”

He knows what he’s talking about. These days, the 68-year-old Vasquez lives in subsidized housing on South Wabash Avenue and works as an advocate with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. But for four years, as a homeless man, he lived on Lower Wacker Drive.
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