SANTA FE - A spike in the number of homeless people in New Mexico is being attributed to the growing number of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they reintegrate into the world they left, they find themselves competing for resources needed by the many people hit hard by the economic downturn.
Alan Martinez, deputy cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, said, Veterans in need of homes are a growing trend for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are already well known, such as PTSD.”
"A lot of these veterans are coming back, trying to step into the life that they had before they were deployed. Unfortunately, they are coming back different," he said.
Martinez noted the drawdown is having a significant impact on the services available for veterans. He recalled hearing estimates as high as 30,000 new veterans returning to New Mexico with the military drawdown. Martinez explained that multiple deployments can make it harder for veterans to re-integrate, because each deployment can add more to a veteran's burden.
"A lot of them were young kids when they went over on their first deployment. And a lot of them are facing divorce, broken homes, loss of job.," said Martinez.
One way the state has responded to these issues is through the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center. Elinor Reiners, the director, said she remains optimistic about the prospects for the veterans she serves. She believes that her organization offers a sense of hope.
"We have a very high percentage of individuals who will go out and find homes and a steady means of income,” said Reiners.
“Veterans could use more help from the community in finding jobs that match their skills and in collaborating on public service projects. Another thing that would put a smile on many veterans' faces is getting free tickets to ball games,” she added.