Homeless Vet Forced From Shelter, Freezes to Death-Reported as Fiction!

Homeless Vet Forced From Shelter, Freezes to Death-Reported as Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
A homeless veteran was forced from a shelter and froze to death while refugees were given free food and shelter across town.
The Truth:
This tale of a homeless veteran freezing to death after being forced from a shelter started out as a hypothetical warning about the dangers of a broken immigration system, and it was later misidentified as an actual news story about a homeless vet freezing to death.
To be clear, veteran homelessness is a nationwide issue that affects tens of thousands of veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) runs various programs that have successfully reduced veteran homeless by 70 percent since 2005, but it’s an undeniable fact that not all veterans who need help get help. But this specific rumor about a homeless veteran freezing to death while refugees across town received food and shelter appears to be false.
One of the earliest versions of the rumor appeared at RightWingNews.com in January 2016 under the headline, “Homeless Vet Denied Help And Dies In The Cold…Same Night, As Refugees Get Free Food And Housing.” The report makes clear in the opening paragraph that it’s citing a report of a homeless veteran in Sweden (we couldn’t confirm that report, either) freezing to death — but then warns “this could have just as easily happened here in the US”:

This took place in Sweden, but could have just as easily happened here in the US. Refugees are being given housing, entitlements and jobs, while citizens are losing their livelihoods and are being kicked out on the street in the name of diversity. Among the saddest of these cases are the homeless that die while refugees are set up in comfort. In January, a homeless Swedish vet froze to death on the streets while a Muslim African family was given free housing and taught how to use a toilet for the first time. I kid you not. Just beyond deplorable.

That report was shared more than 90,000 times on social media, and it was quickly picked up and re-reported by other right-leaning blog sites. One of them, USHerald.com, used a similar headline, “Homeless Vet Forced From Shelter And Freezes To Death… Just Across Town ‘Refugees’ Get Free Housing And Food,” but failed to make clear that the situation didn’t actually happen in the United States:

Liberals have created a situation that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Refugees who are flooding into host nations at an unprecedented rate are demanding housing, food and free education all while increasing the crime rate and refusing to follow the laws.

If this isn’t bad enough homeless veterans who have sacrificed their lives and mental health are cast out onto the streets. Where are their advocates? Liberals don’t seem too concerned with the military and the men and women who serve them and have shown utter contempt towards them time and again.

The USHerald.com account was shared nearly 400,000 times, giving rise to the widespread misconception that a homeless vet had actually been forced from a homeless shelter and froze to death while refugees received free food and shelter across town.

Nearly all of these reports published the story with a photo of a man — presumably the homeless vet — bundled up in a blanket on a bench in a snow storm. But the photo was taken by Getty Images photographer Karen Bleier in 2013, and there’s no indication in the photo credit that the man was a veteran, or that he later froze to death:

homeless vet forced from shelter
A man bundled on a bench in this 2013 Getty Images photo has bene misidentified as a homeless vet who froze to death after being forced from a shelter.

So, as is often the case, this photo accompanying reports about a homeless veteran who froze to death after being forced from a shelter can be used to help debunk it.

And we searched high and low for reports about a homeless veteran freezing to death after being forced from a homeless shelter, but we couldn’t find any in the U.S. The closest we came was a March 2015 report about a veteran who froze to death in an Iowa woods shortly after visiting a VA hospital. However, key details don’t match up. The vet wasn’t homeless, he wasn’t forced from a homeless shelter and his death was unrelated to the resettlement of refugees.
Given that we couldn’t find any credible reports matching the situation described in the rumor, and that it’s fairly east to track the evolution of this rumor from a cautionary hypothetical situation to a misidentified news item, we’re reporting this rumor about a homeless vet freezing to death after being forced from a shelter as “fiction.”