US Military Tours Homeless Encampments for Career Exploration


Written by: Justin Xu

This is an interesting conundrum,” said a member of the middle class. “I respect the troops, but I hate the homeless.”
Photo by Jordan Whitlow

This past week, several major cities across the United States have been “overrun by military personnel” participating in a new yearly career exploration program. According to the Deparment of Defense website, the program was designed to help servicepeople reintegrate into civilian society after their time in the military. Participants are to undergo a year-long internship during which they will tour major homeless encampments across the United States.

“We found that veterans are overrepresented in our nation’s unhoused population,” said Director I. N. Grate, a spokesperson for the new program. “Given how much our military has sacrificed to serve the American people, the least we could do for our national heroes is prepare them for life after service. It’s my hope that this program will help our future veterans decide whether homelessness is the right choice for them.”

Currently, this year’s cohort is stationed at Skid Row in Los Angeles, where they are interning under resident unhoused mentors with decades of experience in the field, the majority of whom are senior and disabled veterans. Most of the participants reportedly disliked being unhoused. Among the participants, one had the following to say about his time at Skid Row: “I hate it here. Yesterday, I asked a few program supervisors if they could at least lend us money for basic necessities, but they just told me that if I wanted food so badly then I should get off my ass and find work.”

Some veterans among the unhoused population at Skid Row have been vocal in their opposition to the program. Patrick Riot, an Iraq war veteran, said, “Look, it’s not that I mind meeting all the new recruits or showing them how to pass on into homelessness after their service. Heck, it even makes me feel like I’m serving my country again. All I’m saying is, it would be nicer if I weren’t doing this for free.”

“What I want our military personnel to know is that Uncle Sam has got your back,” said Director Grate in a recent interview. “We understand the kind of sacrifice and dedication it takes to be a hero in your country’s time of need, so we want to pay you back with healthcare at VA hospitals and a short shoutout at ball games. We’ve been listening to your concerns, and we will do everything in our power to secure your future beyond your years of service. I intend for this career exploration program to be further proof of that.”

When asked about the negative feedback from program participants and their unhoused veteran hosts alike, Director Grate said, “Oh, I’d advise you don’t interview them directly. Their opinions don’t really matter.”

Despite the backlash, there was still some support for the program, most notably from Jane America, a Medal of Honor recipient found at the corner of Temple and Alameda street begging passersby for bootstraps to pull herself up by. America said, “It’s my honest hope that this program will serve as a clear warning for those in uniform who think they can cruise through civilian life with their veteran benefits. And for those who have little support outside of the military, I hope you become well prepared for the day when the Americans you fought to protect let you down.”

After Skid Row, up next for these soldiers will be sunny San Diego, where local police have been removing unhoused veterans from the streets, which, according to Director Grate, is “just what our great heroes deserve.”

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