Military Matters: Why are veterans homeless?

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - When we first told you about a Vietnam veteran who died at a Mississippi hospital, homeless and without any known family, we got a huge response from viewers who were upset at how this could happen.

Since the funeral, Newscenter 11 has been looking into the support available for those who've served our country.

There are veterans in bad situations all over the U.S. and it's no different here in east Mississippi and west Alabama.

Brenda Ethridge from the Lauderdale County Veterans’ Office has worked with veterans for more than a decade.

"We do have a good many of homeless veterans here in Lauderdale County. A lot of the time, post-traumatic stress disorder can be one of the reasons. And some veterans, I think, kind of isolate themselves. They just kind of fall in that category of becoming homeless,” said Ethridge.

Earlier this month, Air Force Sergeant Roy Earl Nielsen, originally from New York, was buried at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton County, after he passed away at a hospital in Jackson, homeless and with no known family.

Many viewers took to our Facebook page, demanding to know how a veteran was ever allowed to become homeless, writing messages such as:

"Our country failed you, R.I.P."

"In no way should any veteran be homeless."

"You deserve more."

Mississippi Veterans Affairs says there's a wide range of support across the state, but admits some people slip through the net.

"We just have individuals who have a hard time transitioning. They start self-medicating, and their life and their career goes into a downwards spiral. We still have an obligation to them to help them through those situations," said Stacey Pickering, director of MVA.

Help is out there but for some reason or another, some veterans still don't get the help they need.

"I do have a lot of veterans who say, 'well, there are other veterans that need help more than I do,’ said Ethridge. "I always tell that veteran, ‘you served our country so you deserve the help also'."

Do you have a military related story you think we should cover in Military Matters? You may email kate.gibson@wtok.com.