A link on BillOReilly.com, the website of Fox News and conservative radio talk-show host Bill O'Reilly, was titled "Those weren't veterans John Edwards, they were sex offenders," and linked to an Associated Press article about Florida's efforts "to dissolve a community of sex offenders living under a bridge." Media Matters for America has documented the back-and-forth between O'Reilly and former Sen. John Edwards over homelessness and homeless veterans.
On February 7, the "O'Round the World: Stories from the 'No-Spin' News Desk" section of BillOReilly.com, Fox News anchor and conservative radio talk-show host Bill O'Reilly's website, featured a link titled "Those weren't veterans John Edwards, they were sex offenders." The phrase referred to a recent back-and-forth between O'Reilly and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) over homelessness and homeless veterans, which began when O'Reilly responded to Edwards' January 3 remark that "tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates," by stating in part: "The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's brain."
The BillOReilly.com link directed visitors to a February 6 Associated Press article on Florida's attempts "to dissolve a community of sex offenders living under a bridge" in Miami "that includes a gym, kitchen, living room and two dogs."
In a January 30 speech in which Edwards announced the suspension of his presidential campaign, he discussed visiting a New Orleans homeless encampment "under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night." Responding to Edwards' remarks, O'Reilly repeatedly suggested on the January 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that this homeless community did not exist, saying: "[W]e called the Edwards campaign and asked where exactly is that bridge so we could help those people. Apparently, they don't know or they wouldn't tell us. The Edwards campaign can't pinpoint the bridge." However, several media outlets had reported that a large encampment of homeless people has formed under an Interstate 10 overpass in downtown New Orleans.
O'Reilly has also repeatedly minimized the number of homeless veterans not in shelters. Discussing Edwards' January 3 statement that "tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates," O'Reilly declared on the January 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor that Edwards "has no clue" and added: "I mean, come on. The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's brain. Ten million illegal alien workers are sending billions of dollars back home, and Edwards is running around saying nobody has any money. Hard to believe." O'Reilly returned to the subject during a January 15 O'Reilly Factor discussion with radio host Ed Schultz, in which O'Reilly stated: "[W]e're still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed. ... They may be out there, but there are not many of them out there, OK? So if you know where one is, Ed ... if you know where there's a veteran sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it, is not there."
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Current population estimates suggest that about 195,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year." The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported on October 15, 2007, that according to information reported by applicants to the department's Continuums of Care (CoCs) Homeless Assistance Programs, the local CoCs reported a "point-in-time count" of 29,785 "unsheltered" homeless veterans. The "point-in-time count" occurred in January 2006. HUD currently defines "an unsheltered homeless person" as a person who "resides in: A place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, or on the street."
HUD's 2006 homeless population data is accompanied by the following "Important Notes About This Data":
This report is based on point-in-time information provided to HUD by Continuums of Care (CoCs) in the 2006 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs application and has not been independently verified by HUD. The user is cautioned that although CoCs are required to provide an unduplicated count of homeless persons, a standardized methodology to determine unduplicated counts of homeless persons within CoCs has not yet been implemented and the reliability of different street count methodologies can vary. Furthermore any data within this report that aggregates information above the CoC level is not unduplicated for homeless persons that may have been counted in more than one CoC.
The Miami/Dade County CoC reported 117 unsheltered homeless veterans in its January 24, 2006, point-in-time count.