Trending
MOST READ
Skin Deeper: Scarlett Johansson as predator in ‘Under the Skin’

Skin Deeper: Scarlett Johansson as predator in ‘Under the Skin’

Screens: One of the first images in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a tiny white dot at the center of a black screen. At what are we looking? An eclipse? The sun... By David Riedel 4/16/2014
Alamo Colleges Barely Passed Its Own Accountability Test

Alamo Colleges Barely Passed Its Own Accountability Test

News: After months of passionate protest, petitions and public forums, faculty, students and administration of the five Alamo Community Colleges let out... By Mary Tuma 4/16/2014
Best Bar Trivia Night

Best Bar Trivia Night

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
SA’s Shadiest (in a good way) Parks

SA’s Shadiest (in a good way) Parks

City Guide 2014: For anyone in charge of a child or two, knowing where to find the nearest playground is information as essential as the numbers for poison control and your pediatrician... By Joy-Marie Scott 2/24/2014
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

News

Walking Wounded: The VA missed serious warning signs that presaged local vet’s violent breakdown

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Adan Castaneda in 2005 after joining the Marine Corps.

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Adan Castaneda after his 2011 arrest.

Photo: Micahel Barajas, License: N/A

Micahel Barajas

Maria Anna Esparza, still waiting for her son to "come home."


Sitting outside Haven for Hope, downtown San Antonio’s sprawling homeless services campus, Cruz Vallarta remarked, “I’d say 95 percent of the vets I see that come through our sobering program, they’re self-medicating. They’re tired of the life they have. They haven’t hurt themselves or killed themselves because they just haven’t been pushed over that edge yet.”

Vallarta, himself a Vietnam veteran, spends his days in and out of homeless shelters and on the streets looking for former service members long forgotten by society. A caseworker with the Center for Healthcare Services, Vallarta works to connect veterans to substance abuse programs, mental health treatment, and counseling in the area.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that as many as 107,000 veterans sleep on the streets on any given night due to a frustratingly complex set of causes: shortages in affordable housing, lingering effects from PTSD and other mental illness, unemployment or underemployment, self-medication and substance abuse. While vets make up about 8 percent of the general population, they constitute nearly one-fifth of the homeless population, according to the coalition. A yearly Trinity University survey of the San Antonio’s homeless population puts the local number higher — 32 percent of the city’s chronically homeless population are veterans, over half of which suffer from some sort of physical or mental ailment.

“We have a huge problem on our hands. [These soldiers] didn’t volunteer for these ramifications, and almost everybody who was in the combat zone comes back with some sort of post-traumatic stress,” says Judge Christian. “This increases the need in their mind to go out and find a release, and that could be alcohol, drugs. They’re angry, depressed. … This constant deployment cycle, it can destroy people.”

Veterans returning from war only to find themselves on the streets is a problem that’s long nagged at the military, says James Timmons, director of San Antonio’s residential American GI Forum center for homeless veterans. Former soldiers staying at the center range from newly discharged Iraq and Afghanistan vets to those who’ve battled homelessness since returning from war in Vietnam. “When we’re talking about these guys from the Vietnam era, certainly the social acceptance just wasn’t there for a lot of them. … Some just took that and traveled the country, isolated from society,” Timmons said. “For many, travel eventually became living on the street.” Trinity’s survey shows that roughly 80 percent of San Antonio’s homeless veterans served in Vietnam.

Now in his 60s, a man who wished to be identified only as “Anthony” says he’s lived on and off the streets ever since he returning from conflict in Vietnam. Currently living at the GI Forum shelter, he spends most of his days out looking for work. Calm and quiet with long greying hair, Anthony easily recalls scenes from war, of battle buddies killed, the punishing jungle, and the firefights. “It’s not the same when you get back. You’re just different. You’ll never be the same, and you carry that with you for the rest of your freaking life.”

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus