Sunday, December 30, 2007

Homeless vets in Iowa

Homeless veterans rally in Iowa

Rally spotlights plight of homeless veterans

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On any given winter night in Iowa, as many as 1,000 homeless veterans don't have a place to sleep. And there are just 56 beds available for homeless veterans in the state.

"It is an outrage that there are now about 3,000 of our valiant troops who served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now homeless on the streets of our nation," said Maj. Brian Hampton, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who is president of the Circle of Friends for American Veterans.

The Circle of Friends held a rally Saturday at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Des Moines to draw attention to the plight of homeless veterans. The group hopes that the presidential candidates in Iowa this weekend take note.

"We're putting heat on politicians that homeless veterans deserve the most support," Hampton said. "The homeless veterans don't have clout with members of Congress."

Another Vietnam veteran, Jim Underwood, who was a security guard at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland in the late 1970s, said an alcohol and drug problem dogged him for 25 years. He lived in more than 10 places during that time.

"I think a lot of veterans don't actually know what's out there for them," Underwood said, referring to benefits and treatment.

Underwood said he was treated for depression at the Veterans Medical Center in Knoxville. He now lives at the 180 Degrees transitional facility on Cottage Grove Avenue in Des Moines, which is a combination shelter and treatment and education center.

Reporter Jacqueline Lee can be reached at 515-284-8065 or

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