Вообще говоря, Иллинойс делает очень многое для помощи бездомным ветеранам, сейчас в Чикаго их насчитывается около 700 человек, гораздо меньше, чем три года назад, но все же каждый человек - это человек...
Small clouds of steam escaped from John Worthy's mouth as he exhaled and crossed his arms. Partially obscured by the hood of his jacket, the black beanie on his head read "The Mission Continues."
Worthy, an Army veteran and real estate investor, was one of more than a dozen people who camped outside at Columbia College Chicago's Sculpture Garden for 24 hours, covering themselves with blankets, jackets and anything else to stay warm in the below-freezing weather.
"It's brutal for us for these 24 hours, but there are people out there that this is just another day for them," Worthy, 52, said Friday. "Even though we're under some harsh conditions here, we've got tents, we've got proper gear, proper clothing, we've had a chance to prepare to be out in the elements. A lot of them don't have that. They're sleeping on a couple of blankets in subzero weather. It's pretty brutal."
The event, which ended Saturday morning, raised money for the RTW Veteran Center, a nonprofit organization in the Washington Park neighborhood that serves three hot meals a day every day of the week to veterans and other "food-insecure people." Worthy is chief executive of the veterans' center, and the money raised will go toward a job-training program the group hopes to start.
"The whole point of us sleeping out is to raise awareness about the veteran homeless population by living in their shoes," said Julio Lopez, 28, a Columbia College student and Navy veteran who organized the sleep out. This is the fourth year of the sleep out.
About 601 homeless veterans live in the city of Chicago, according to a count made in January by the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Of those veterans, about a third are without shelter. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that there were more than 1,400 homeless veterans in the state of Illinois.
Worthy, however, estimates the number to be in the thousands, saying that veterans are hard to count because many of them may not get help and need to be reached where they are.
When temperatures drop, the number of veterans seeking shelter increases, placing a heavier burden on the VA, city and community-based organizations to provide services, officials said.
"I think any awareness to the plight of homeless veterans is beneficial," said Regina Freeman-Hodges, supervisory social worker for the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. "Even though we've seen a decrease in veteran homelessness, we'd like to say in the city of Chicago that we ended veteran homelessness."
The number of homeless veterans dropped 20 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 752 to 601, Freeman-Hodges said.
The city provides housing vouchers for homeless veterans and has housed 2,730 homeless veterans through the national Ending Veterans Homelessness Initiative, wrote Shannon Breymaier, the mayor's deputy director of communications, in an email.
Worthy said he wishes the words "homeless" and "veterans" would never be associated with each other unless it's in the context of saying that there are none. Many veterans suffer from mental health issues and addictions, which makes it hard for them to re-enter society, Worthy said.
"We try to help heal broken warriors, people who are down, to put them back together and get their lives back on track," Worthy said. "These are your mothers, your fathers, your sisters, your brothers, your sons and your daughters that are out here, that actually volunteer ... For them to come home and not have a place to live and food to eat, it's personally unacceptable to me."