This is why veteran homelessness has dropped so dramatically.

No one should be sleeping on a sidewalk — especially our vets.

Good news, America: Far fewer veterans are sleeping on our streets.

Like, far fewer.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.


Since 2010, vet homelessness has plunged 47%, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

That includes a 17% drop just between January 2015 and January 2016.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Hooray! But really, though ... how did we do it?

Multiple factors contributed to the decline, of course, and no one answer should take all the credit. But here are three of the key variables to note:

The first major player? The first lady.

Michelle Obama has led efforts to encourage mayors to take on vet homelessness at the local level. And it's working.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Her initiative, aptly dubbed the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, has prompted hundreds of local officials to commit to effectively ending homelessness among those who've served. Since its launch two years ago, the challenge has done just that in 27 communities across the country, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Houston.

These cities have shown that, yes, you can get every last vet into stable housing. Heck, even two states — Virginia and Connecticut — proved it can be done.

A second key factor? Opening the door to homeless vets, so to speak.

Ending veteran homelessness has been a big component of the Obama administration's Opening Doors plan — the federal government's first-ever comprehensive strategy to get a roof over every American's head. Key partnerships within the strategy have helped more than 360,000 vets and their families find housing in the past six years alone, thanks to services from HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

And a third reason for the big drop? Housing First.

The evidence is mounting (and has been for a while now) that the Housing First approach to homelessness is the way to go. The White House-backed strategy — which provides a person with a home, first and foremost, and then provides helpful services (as opposed to a person obtaining housing only if certain behavioral conditions are met beforehand) — is being adapted by more and more nonprofits and agencies across the country.

It's how Utah was able to get its chronic homelessness rate slashed by more than 90% in just one decade.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Make no mistake: There's still a lot more that needs to get done before we can consider this work a success.

After all, the president failed to reach his original goal, set six years ago, of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. And as the official point-in-time survey found earlier this year, there are still roughly 40,000 vets sleeping on the street in America on any given night — a figure far too high for any of us to feel OK throwing in the towel.

Volunteers count how many people are homeless in Los Angeles. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

But still — a 47% drop is no small potatoes.

Seeing dramatic progress on an overwhelming issue is great news. It's even better, however, knowing how we did it.

There was no magic fix. No savior swept in and snapped their fingers. No billionaire sighed, wrote a check, and saved the day.

Our country made huge gains helping the homeless who've served because enough people — from the first lady down to the mayors of small towns everywhere — cared enough to make a difference.

And that's America at its greatest.

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True