Sunday, February 18, 2007

Creating Future Homeless

Walter Reed Hospital: A Nightmare for Returning Wounded

There is a fantastic story in the Wash. Post about the conditions at America's premiere Army Hospital. A Presidential backdrop for hundreds of photo opportunities while shaking wounded soldiers hands, comforting the sick, or passing out metals turns out to be a dump. There are horror stories about bureaucratic nightmare within Walter Reed Army Hospital that the soldiers have to go through to get services, Army officers are lost on a daily basis, and the requirement to cross the grounds in the cold on a daily basis for "formation" just seems cruel. It is a wonderful investigative piece that calls into question our commitment to the troops fighting in Iraq. These are the future homeless of America who are disenfranchised by the "system" and turn away from society. Right now, in Cleveland about one-third of the men's population of homeless people served in the military. We do not have many from the current war in Cleveland, but we do have vets from the first Iraq conflict and some older men from Vietnam.

Imagine enduring second and third tours of duty in the most dangerous country in the world, and then coming back to a dump of a hospital with mice, roaches and black mold. It is a slap in the face and if it were me I would see it as a visible sign that the country does not care. It certainly can mess with your head. Some of these individuals will certainly disappear and show up at local shelters. They are wounded by an insurgent fighting over a 1,000 year old dispute in a war fought for very unclear reasons, and after four years there is very little to show four our efforts, then the soldier returns to the states they must deal with deplorable conditions. If this is how they are treated right when the get back, how will a one-legged soldier be treated in ten or fifteen years? Veterans from the current war in Iraq are showing up at shelters in California and DC. I certainly hope that this negative coverage of this hospital will force the end to photo ops and red tape in order to assure quality care to those returning from the conflict in the Middle East.

Just for context, most homeless veterans in Cleveland spend some time at the Brecksville facility, which is a wonderful facility. It is clean and spacious. It has plenty of green space that gives the place a slower pace. It is a place to recover and regroup. It is no doubt one of the best places for homeless people in the region. I have heard a lot of negatives about the Wade Park hospital. The problems usually revolve around red tape and bad personnel not so much the facility. I certainly hope that the closing of the Brecksville facility will not move the Wade Park hospital to model itself after Walter Reed in Maryland.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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