Nation’s First Homeless Veteran Statue to be Dedicated in January 2019
Every night, roughly 49,000 veterans find themselves on the street homeless. To put this into perspective, in 2018 there were roughly 8,400 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to the Guardian. This means that there are roughly six homeless Veterans for every soldier serving today in Afghanistan.
“Homeless veterans can be found all over the U.S. Here in Cherokee County, Georgia, our intake and processing of homeless veterans is up 32% from last year, and we still have 45 days to go,” indicated Jim Lindenmayer, Director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program, who is also an Army veteran and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The program is now in its fifth year, and the issue of homeless veterans does not seem to be going away. Earlier this year the program was contacted by Joseph Hickey, CEO of Canton Cemetery, to discuss the issue of homeless veterans in the area. Hickey had been contacted by a mother from Cherokee County, whose son was found frozen to death near St. Louis in the woods with a Bible in his hand. Her request to Hickey was “please bring my son home.”
Bart Williams, Hickey’s business partner, also had an encounter with a homeless man this past spring. He encountered an 82-year-old homeless Korean War veteran living on the streets in the area, and he also reached out to Lindenmayer for assistance with this veteran, which was provided.
Hickey and Williams, who is not a veteran, wanted to do something to highlight the issue of homeless veterans, both on a local level as well as on a national level. Additionally, Hickey and Williams saw in this project an opportunity to honor their fathers who were both veterans. Hickey’s father was a Navy veteran of WW2, while Williams’ father was a Medal of Honor recipient for his service with the Army Special Forces during the Vietnam Conflict.
After discussions with Lindenmayer, the idea of creating a statue depicting the homeless veteran issue was put into motion. The Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program (CCHVP) created a statue task force, comprised of veteran representatives from the county, including veterans who previously had been homeless.
The marble statue depicts two life-size veterans, one male and one female, standing on a pentagon base, displaying the five branches of the military. Inscribed on the base will be the phrase, “No Veteran who fights for this country, should have to fight for a job, a roof over their head, or the care they need when they come home,” which depicts their plight faced in society today. The two statues do not have any rank, as veterans of all ranks are subject to becoming homeless.
“Cherokee County is not immune to homeless veterans. We have processed over 85 this year, some single, others with families, some from current conflicts and others from past conflicts,” noted Lindenmayer. “Some really stand out, such as a decorated Army Ranger. He is homeless, and has been for a number of years, and suffers from PTSD. He deals with his PTSD by self-medicating to forget the close combat incident he had, so that he can sleep. We tried to get him help from the VA, but due to the fact that the Government has lost his military records, he has been unable to obtain the help he needs and earned.”
“Another homeless veteran case we had involved a female Marine who had been homeless for a number of years, and though she was being treated by the VA, she was not allowed any benefits due to an obscure law passed in 1980 that requires 24 months of service in order to qualify for veteran benefits. We were able to resolve this issue with the VA as she qualified under two of several exemptions to this law, and after six months of working on her claim, she was finally granted benefits and was able to get out of her homeless situation,” continued Lindenmayer.
“The statue will be dedicated on Friday, January 25, 2019, at the Cherokee County Veterans Park just outside of Canton, GA, during the National HUD Homeless Point in Time count. It will be a reminder to us all that the issue of homeless veterans goes back to the Revolutionary War and has been part of our society ever since,” noted Lindenmayer. “Homelessness for the veterans who volunteered or were drafted to serve this county should never happen, and we owe veterans, including homeless veterans, a debt of gratitude for their service. Many of the veterans are homeless due to issues that they encountered while in the service.”
The statue, and much of the work being done around its installation, is being donated by people such as Hickey and his company, as well as a number of local veteran-owned businesses. Still, with all of the donated work, there are some expenses that the CCHVP cannot cover. A GOFUNDME account has been set up in the hopes that the CCHVP can cover these additional expenses. “When we set up the GOFUNDME account, we wanted to make sure that funds raised for the homeless program are not used. Any funds that go beyond the statue donation target will go directly to programs run by the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program,” stated Lindenmayer.
The CCHVP is a 501(c) 19 veteran non-profit and is part of the American Legion in Cherokee County. All staff at the program are 100% volunteers and receive no salary. It is CCHVP’s honor to pay it forward to others who have served our country honorably. The American Legion is the largest veteran support group in the U.S. with Posts in 14,000 communities around the country with 2.4 million members. For more information, go to http://www.legion.org.
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