- By Pam Fessler
- April 16, 2012, 3:19 AM
Last year, the number of homeless U.S. veterans on a given night dropped 12 percent from the year before. But tens of thousands were still on the streets, and more could be joining them as troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama has vowed to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015.
Homeless No More
James Brown left the Army in 1979. And for most of the next 32 years, he lived on the streets in and around Los Angeles. You might have seen him: the dirty, disheveled guy trying to keep warm in a cardboard box.
But today, Brown is a different man. Wearing sunglasses and an athletic outfit, he bounds up the stairs to his new home, a fourth-floor walk-up.
“Apres vous,” he says, opening the door to a small, sparsely furnished studio apartment. For Brown, it might as well be a mansion.
“I got my own lights, refrigerator, a fan,” he says.
He also has what he calls a spectacular view. All that’s visible through the window is a brick wall. But Brown moves to one side and points to a sliver of sky.
“From here, this angle, it’s incredible,” he says. “Along the horizon, it’s palm trees. They crest the top of this hill. And then just underneath are all these little quaint homes; it’s like a quaint village. You’d swear you were in the Swiss Alps.”
It’s a far cry from where he used to live. Brown, who’s on disability for mental and physical problems, is one of about 30,000 homeless veterans who have been moved into permanent housing in the past three years.