More Veterans Calling The Streets Home

Homeless
CBS
Hassam Elgoarany knows the price of war.

He fought in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, where a sniper's bullet took his best friend.

"His head got blown off — I get nightmares about that," said Elgoarany.

The Muslim-American sailor drowned that pain in alcohol, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller, but drinking only led to an early discharge.

Back at home, he couldn't find work. His wife took their baby boy and left. Robbery led to prison.

When he got out, Hassam became one of many homeless veterans.

"We have no inkling of the full scope of the problem," said Roy Kearse, vice president of Samaritan Village, a state-funded homeless shelter for veterans with addictions.

At Samaritan Village, Hassam found men who understood his downward spiral.

"They're returning home, they're running into obstacles and problems and all of the mechanisms aren't in place to get to them," said Kearse.

One in three homeless Americans is a veteran.

On any given night in this country, an estimated 200,000 are living on the streets.

Many served in Vietnam, but experts expect the number of Iraq veterans to swell in coming years.

The Veterans Administration can provide beds to only 14,000 veterans, though it told CBS News its shelters aren't filled to capacity and that it offers what it called "very good" services to homeless veterans.

As President Bush orders more troops to Iraq, the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs wants more focus on those coming home.

"The president did not mention the word 'veteran' in his State of the Union address," said Senator Daniel Akaka, D-AK, chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Akaka has asked Congress to more than double the president's request for funding next year — 4.8 billion dollars more to help not just the physically wounded but the emotionally scarred.

"They train you to transfer from a civilian to a killing machine," said Elgoarany. "When you get out they should have trained me to go back into being a civilian."

The Army says one in three Iraq veterans will return home with mental health issues. Sooner or later, caring for them will become another cost of war.