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VFW seeks clothes for vets in need

August 23, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Got extra clothing? The Southbridge VFW is hoping to collect it for needy veterans.

According to new Commander Robert Couture, a Navy Vietnam-era veteran, the plan is to start two collections a year — one between now and October, to be delivered before Thanksgiving, the other to run in April to take advantage of "spring cleaning." Anything gathered will go to the homeless veterans' shelter in Worcester.

He notes, however, that it's hard to accurately calculate the number of homeless veterans in this area.

"A lot of them won't tell you, and a lot you can't find," he said. He gives one unnamed man as an example, saying he came home from Iraq "and all his friends were in the service, so he had no place to go."

The National Coalition of the Homeless website notes there are about 100,000 veterans among the roughly 730,000 Americans who are homeless "on any given night." Among those veterans, around 45 percent have some form of mental illness and about half have substance abuse issues, but they also tend to be "better educated than the general homeless population," with about 85 percent being high school graduates vs. 55 percent overall.

Homelessness itself aside, there's a wide range of poverty among veterans that splits noticeably at age 61. For those under that age, the poverty rate is 16.6 percent, but above that age, it ranges from 2.9 to 3.6 percent, according to Social Security Administration figures published in 2006. That's despite the fact veterans typically collect more in social security than non-veterans do — averaging $1008 vs. $892.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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