Thoughts & Views: What about our homeless people?

There are an estimated 50,000 homeless veterans in the U.S.

It’s rather interesting that the terror attacks in Paris a few weeks ago have opened up a discussion in this country that largely gets overlooked — homelessness.

It’s become an issue in the United States because politicians across the globe are now debating whether it’s truly safe to admit Syrian refugees who have been forced from their home and native land.

There’s been talk that some 10,000 of them could be taken in here in the U.S.

As a product of the Jesuits, my first response to this notion was, “Of course, let them in.” But then the attacks happened in France. And the debates opened up on TV news stations, in newspaper columns and most vociferously, on social media.

Perhaps the starkest debate compared the Syrian refugees — most of whom are not terrorists — to homeless veterans in our own country.

While it’s impossible to know the exact number, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there are likely more than 50,000 U.S. vets who are living on the streets of America for a variety of reasons.

Imagine that just for a moment — 50,000 women and men who were willing to put their lives on the line for you and me do not have a home, do not have a consistent place to get a meal, do not have a place to take a daily shower, do not have a place to call their own.

Now there’s talk of putting up these refugees in homes that have been foreclosed.

While in some way the humanist in me says this would be the right thing to do, the American in me says not while there are still tens of thousands of Americans who could all use the shelter of a home.

I don’t want this to be about politics. But there’s also the notion that President Barack Obama doesn’t want stricter screening of the refugees who might come to America.

After what happened in Paris, I can’t for a second imagine letting in Syrian refugees who haven’t been thoroughly screened, as difficult a process as that might be. One of the terrorists in Paris allegedly purportedly represented himself to be a refugee. The very same could happen here in America.

So while I certainly feel great compassion for the innocent people of Syria who have no place else to go, in my heart of hearts, I can’t see giving preferential treatment to people from a land far away when, in reality, there are many more Americans — especially veterans — who have nowhere to go.

Is there a reason why any veteran should have to live on the streets? Is there any reason why any veteran should not be properly nourished? Is there any reason why any veteran should not have access to proper healthcare?

The simple answer is no.

And before we take care of people who aren’t Americans, those who are Americans and who are in the same predicament must be taken care of first before we open our nation to a single refugee.

It’s a harsh reality. It doesn’t mean one is less compassionate about the horrors any Syrian has gone through over the last few years. But for once, it’s time this country takes care of its own people who are struggling before it takes care of outsiders.

Once the homeless problem in this country is eradicated — don’t hold your breath — perhaps we could revisit welcoming Syrians and others. But not until our own are taken care of first.

Odds and Ends 

• The movie “Spotlight” opened in theaters nationwide last week. It’s the story of how The Boston Globe uncovered the priest sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2001. I haven’t been to a paid movie in more than a decade. But I will be going to see this one.

• Speaking of movies, saw “The Walk” last week. That recounts the day — Aug. 7, 1974 — when Philippe Petit, a man from France, walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center a ghastly six times. There had been talk of people getting sick seeing the movie — and I was certainly close to the same watching it.

But it was the re-creation of the Twin Towers that got to me the most. They looked so realistic. And it reminded me that those towers should have been rebuilt exactly as they were before they came down on Sept. 11, 2001.

• Want to take a moment to wish everyone reading this a very Happy Thanksgiving. It is a thrill, to this day, to be able to write for the newspaper I grew up reading as a kid in Kearny. And it’s an absolute honor to do so for the wonderful people of Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Nutley, Belleville and Bloomfield. Thank you, one and all, for giving us all at The Observer a reason for keeping this newspaper going for 128 years. I am grateful for each and every one of our readers and advertisers.

Have a great rest of the week — and see you again in a few weeks.

Kevin Canessa Jr. can be reached by email at, on Facebook at or on Twitter @kevincanessa.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.