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  • Cabins for Homeless


    The cabins will house up to 21 Veterans and were built on land leased from theU.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

    TOGUS — Tim Buckmore is delighted by his new digs, even if the cable TV hasn’t arrived yet.

    Until this summer, Buckmore, 57, was one of dozens of homeless Veterans living in Maine. Now, he’s among 19 Veterans who have moved into small houses on a quiet corner of the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus.

    For at least seven years, various organizations and agencies have been developing the so-called “Cabin in the Woods” housing project, which cost $5.1 million to build and is located on 11 acres of land that have been leased from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    On Friday, they celebrated the project’s opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by more than 100 guests and dignitaries. The project is part of a larger effort to end Veteran homeless and was developed by Volunteers of America Northern New England, a Brunswick-based group.

    Of the roughly 2,280 people who were homeless in Maine last year, 131 were Veterans, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

    Multiple Veterans who have received new housing through Cabin in the Woods said Friday they appreciated the natural surroundings and lack of noise pollution on the 11-acre property, where 21 cabins have been built. Each of the properties are free-standing and contain one or two bedrooms. The site also includes an office and community space, and is within walking distance of the medical facilities on the 500-acre hospital campus.

    Buckmore, who worked as a generator mechanic in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 1989, has been intermittently homeless for the last three years. He first learned about Cabin in the Woods from a social worker at the Bread of Life Ministries’ Veterans shelter in Augusta. Now, he particularly appreciates the quiet natural setting and the radiant heating that comes out of the floor of his one-bedroom cabin.

    “This is really nice and quiet,” said Buckmore, a Gardiner native, during a tour of the pre-furnished home. “I’d like to see more of these go up.”

    This past summer, Buckmore suffered two strokes and now uses a cane and wheel chair to move around. As someone who has worked in the mental health field and been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, he also hopes the new housing will bring stability to a vulnerable population of Veterans.

    “There’s a high suicide rate among homeless Veterans,” he said. “Something like this can help take their mind off anything bad they’re thinking about.”

    Buckmore’s one qualm, he said, is that Spectrum has yet to run cable television to the new homes. But he added, “That could be a blessing in disguise.”

    Multiple groups provided funding and donations for the Cabin in the Woods project, including the Maine State Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Home Depot and T.D. Bank Charitable foundations. At the ceremony on Friday morning, officials from some of those groups delivered prepared remarks.

    There were also speeches by two members of Maine’s congressional delegation, U.S. representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, and delegates for U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King. Also attending the event was Poliquin’s predecessor as representative of Maine’s 2nd District, Mike Michaud, who served as chairman and ranking member of the House’s Committee on Veterans Affairs.

    Another speaker was Ryan Lilly, the former director of the Togus system who was recently elevated to another role in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: director of its New England systems.

    Just as some cities have eradicated poverties in their homeless populations, Maine is trying to do the same, Lilly said. After the ceremony, he said the Togus campus still has between 30 and 50 acres that could be developed and that the agency is now considering whether it could lease out land for a similar project oriented toward seniors.

    “It was our first experience with this process,” Lilly said. “We’re thinking about what we can do next.”

    While there are other housing developments for Veterans around the country, Lilly said that Cabin in the Woods is unique because it’s in a secluded area and its units are individual homes, as opposed to apartments.

    Another Veteran to benefit from the new housing project is Jesse McGahuey, 41, who last month moved into a two-bedroom cabin with his wife Sheena, 33, and their 5-year-old son, Jerrick. While living on federal land isn’t a perfect arrangement, they said that the arrangement has made it considerably easier for McGahuey to attend his weekly medical appointments at Togus.

    McGahuey suffered a series of injuries during and outside his service in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2002. As a child, he suffered a brain injury. Then, when he was working as a heavy equipment operator while stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, he was pulled under a piece of machinery, injuring his legs and back. Finally, in 2014, he was working at an oil-change business in Waterville when a driver accidentally lost control of her car, giving McGahuey a head injury and exacerbating the previous problems.

    After that 2014 accident, McGahuey lost the ability to work or pay for housing. Since then, his family has spent long periods camping outside. They were one of the first families to apply for housing in Cabin in the Woods, and they’re now able stay there with subsidized rental costs.

    Now that some stability has been reintroduced to their lives, McGahuey hopes that he can start taking classes at a community college and working again, even if it’s part time. His wife, Sheena, is unable to work and receives disability payments because of medical problems she suffered when giving birth.

    “This does ease the pressure of it,” Sheena McGahuey said. “It does help.”


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  • AZ Homeless Vets


    An annual event sponsored by the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center is working to connect Mississippi's homeless Veterans with services they desperately need. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

    Forty-year old Roselyn Hutton, is a U.S. Navy Veteran from Utica. When she was going through a divorce and attending college, Hutton says her G.I. Bill benefits didn't cover the cost of living during breaks, holidays and summers. She and her 9-year old son ended up going from house to house staying with people. Hutton sought help from the homeless program at the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson.

    "And I was able to utilize their services in order to be able to sustain life and still be able to go to school and still drill a little while and still take care of my son," said Hutton.

    Hutton, says she now works as a medical supply technician at the VA facility and she's a homeowner. Hutton is at the medical center's annual Standdown event in Jackson encouraging homeless Veterans to take advantage of all the services available. Kimberly Moore is with the medical center. She says state and community agencies link Veterans with services that include finding a job, housing and medical care. Moore wants to make it convenient for them.

    "To prevent Veterans from having to go here for one thing, another place for another, bringing all the services under one roof. This is where Veterans can come, they can fellowship with their fellow Veterans, relax, and just get back on their feet with this resources," said Moore.

    Moore says 150 to 200 homeless Veterans attend the program. Navy Vet Roselyn Hutton tells them:

    "We deserve it. We served this country. It's important to know what benefits and what things are available to us," said Hutton.

    A Standdown event is scheduled for September 29, in Greenville.


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    CalVet is in the process of updating the rules for admission eligibility at our eight California Veterans Homes.

  • Ponies Up


    TheLos Angeles City Council approved funding to build a homeless shelter for homeless Veterans.

    LOS ANGELES, CA — A proposal to fund the city's portion of a temporary homeless shelter to be located on the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus was approved by the Los Angeles City Council Friday.

    Under a partnership, the city and county of Los Angeles will split the cost of the construction of the $5 million facility, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide on-site services.

    The City Council unanimously approved a motion seeking funding for the facility, which is to be located on the grounds of the VA campus.

    It will provide transitional housing beds for up to 100 homeless Veterans, along with laundry facilities, personal hygiene centers, 24-hour security and supportive services.

    "This is a really big deal for Veterans that the VA is finally starting to deliver, and I'm really glad that the city of Los Angeles and the county are helping them deliver," Councilman Mike Bonin said earlier this week at a Homelessness and Poverty Committee meeting before it moved the motion forward.

    The facility is scheduled to open in early 2019, and will be one of several new programs and facilities at the site aimed at helping homeless Vets.

    The VA also is working on its Draft Master Plan, which calls for 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing on the Westside campus.

    The VA additionally has opened a "safe parking" program for Veterans living in their vehicles, and started providing permanent supportive housing for homeless Veterans in existing buildings, with 54 Veterans currently housed in Building 209.

    With financial support from the city through HHH bond funds, two other buildings are being converted into permanent supportive housing for Veterans.

    The facility will be part of Mayor Eric Garcetti's "A Bridge Home" program, which calls for temporary homeless facilities in each of the city's 15 council districts. One temporary facility in Councilman Jose Huizar's district near the El Pueblo Historic Monument has already opened, with other sites at various stages of development.

    The VA bridge housing site will include two tension membrane structures along with modular trailers that will not be visible from the exterior of the VA campus, according to Bonin's motion.


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  • CO Homeless Vets


    HUD, VA team up to places homeless Vets in permanent housing

    Funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Affairs departments will help provide permanent homes to about 100 homeless Veterans in Colorado.

    The $782,869 in rental assistance announced this week comes from the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services by the VA.

    “We are lucky to have such strong partnerships with the VA and housing authorities throughout the state and the Rocky Mountain region, all of whom work together to build on the success of the HUD-VASH Program,” HUD Rocky Mountain Deputy Regional Administrator Eric Cobb said in a statement.

    As part of the program, VA medical centers assess Veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for vouchers. The decisions are based on a variety of factors, including the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support.

    Veterans participating in the HUD-VA housing program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. The VA offers eligible homeless Veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


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  • Homeless Vet Helped Woman 002


    A homeless Marine Veteran made headlines in October 2017 when he used his last $20 to help a woman with an empty tank of gas, stuck on the side of a Philadelphia interstate off-ramp, to fill up.

    His story went viral, but Johnny Bobbitt Jr. is said to be homeless again, and claims he hasn’t received the money allocated for him from Kate McClure and her boyfriend, despite being the subject of a $402,000 GoFundMe campaign they started for him.

    A story that should have ended happily has now turned into a raging battle between lawyers and investigations of the possible mismanagement of funds.

    According to CBS reporting, Kate McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, allegedly have control over the funds. They are accused of using funds for vacations, a new BMW, and a helicopter ride viewing the Grand Canyon.

    In October 2017, Bobbitt had brought McClure a canister of gas in a selfless act of kindness. McClure and D’Amico said they were inspired by Bobbitt’s act and decided to “pay it forward” by starting a GoFundMe account for him.

    Chris Fallon, Bobbitt’s lawyer, told CNN, “From what I can see, the GoFundMe account raised $402,000 and GoFundMe charged a fee of approximately $30,000. Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure gave Johnny about $75,000. There should be close to another $300,000 available to Johnny.”

    That $300,000 is not available to Bobbitt, though.

    D’Amico admitted to the Inquirer that he used $500 from the account to gamble, but repaid the money “quickly." But they are accused of gambling away more of the money.

    Bobbitt, an admitted drug addict, bought a camper (he reportedly was promised a house) and a used vehicle with the money. However, the vehicle has since broken down.

    McClure told The Philadelphia Inquirer the couple is withholding the rest of Bobbitt’s money until he is drug free. The couple has not yet responded publicly to the allegations.

    The crowdfunding website GoFundMe is also involved, investigating the management of the funds. If the mismanagement claims prove to be true, it would be the biggest case of GoFundMe fraud seen by whistleblower group GoFraudMe, according the Washington Post.

    “When there is a dispute, we work with all parties involved to ensure funds go to the right place,” GoFundMe’s statement read. “We will work to ensure that Johnny receives the help he deserves and that the donors’ intentions are honored.”

    In the meantime, though, Bobbitt is assumed to be back to where he began before meeting McClure.

    Jacqueline Promislo, another legal representative for Bobbitt, told CNN that he is currently living on the streets of Philadelphia.


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  • Tiny Homes 005


    TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Students and professors with the University of South Florida's School of Architecture and Community Design have partnered with Celebrate Outreach, a group of St. Petersburg-area faith communities, to create "tiny homes" for homeless Veterans.

    After three years of carefully designing and planning, the groups broke ground for their first home on Monday.

    Both USF members and Celebrate Outreach said that they hope the home can signify a fresh start for a very deserving Veteran.

    "We wanted to create a tiny home, but we wanted to go beyond that and create a home that doesn't generate a burden, but allows them to have a normal life," said Josue Robles Caraballo, the faculty and research associate at USF who has helped to lead the tiny homes project.


    The tiny home has been designed with Veterans in mind. It will be a 500 square-foot structure complete with living spaces, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and even a washer and dryer. The house will also be made to accommodate any Veteran from any background.

    "Disabilities, PTSD, all the things that these solders go through that then, as Veterans, they suffer through," said Yesenia Vega, a USF student who helped to design the tiny house. "We made a plan that was very open."

    The small size of the tiny home will not only make it easy for a Veteran to maintain, but also easy for them to afford.

    "They're going to be homeowners. The Veteran will need to have some form of monthly subsidy, a steady subsidy. They will need to go through the first time homeowner counseling program, and they'll need to apply for first time homebuyer down payment assistance," said Sabine Von Aulock, the project coordinator with Celebrate Outreach.

    Jabo Stewart, a 94-year-old World War II Veteran, has never been homeless himself. However, he knows firsthand the struggles and challenges Veterans face when returning home.

    "You're gone for three years or four or five years and everything changes in your lifestyle," said Stewart.

    Stewart said he believes the tiny homes might be the helping hand Veterans need to get back on their feet.

    "If I didn't have a home, I would feel horrible," said Stewart. "If anyone could help I would feel very happy and gratified to them."

    Construction on the tiny home is expected to begin soon and will be fully complete within the next six month.

    A Veteran for the home has not yet been chosen. Von Aulock said that another organization will determine which homeless Veteran would be the best candidate for the home as they will need to meet certain requirements.

    Only one home is currently in the construction phase, but the hope is that many more homes will soon follow throughout the St. Petersburg community.


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  • Helping the Homeless


    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) – Workers are making headway on the city’s first village for homeless veterans.

  • Homeless Prepare for Winter


    PEORIA — Goodwill volunteers spent Saturday handing out food, clothes and supplies in preparation for winter at the 10th annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans at Dozer Park.

    “Veterans are special to us because of what they have done for us and our country, so we owe a debt of gratitude back to them,” said Don Johnson, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois.

    Roughly 187 Veterans came from across the area, bused in from Springfield, Bloomington, Danville and other cities, to utilize the services provided by Goodwill.

    “This is one event you want the numbers to go down,” said Johanna Wagner, senior program manager for Veterans and employment services. This year, fewer Veterans were served, but ultimately, the goal is for no one to need the resources brought to the Stand Down.

    About 250 volunteers helped to provide hot meals, hot showers and haircuts in addition to the clothes and supplies the Veterans may need going into winter.

    Some of the goods were donated for the Veterans’ Service program, but Goodwill also purchased brand new coats, hats, gloves, sleeping bags, sweatshirts, boots and personal hygiene products.

    “It starts off with retail and that donation is the basis of how we fund it, but we actually go out and specifically ask dollars from the community to help us,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of support. This year for this event we raised well over $100,000.”

    Medical and dental services also partner with Goodwill and checked Veterans for health concerns at the Stand Down.

    “When people donate and they buy from our stores, 99 cents of every dollar comes back into our programs so that we can offer these things for free,” Wagner said.

    Depending on their needs, the Veterans walked away with $200 to $400 worth of supplies, Johnson said.

    “Some of the Veterans that come through here, they don’t always have a need for everything that we’re giving today, but they have a need to interact with others that maybe have been through the same thing as they have been through,” Wagner said.

    That camaraderie continues to bring the Veterans together and helps them to support each other, Johnson said.

    Leon Ruffus, an Army Veteran who served in active duty in the 1980s, said he was skeptical of the program at first.

    “They said, ‘We can help you,’ and I said ‘Oh yeah? Prove it.’”

    They proved it five years ago by helping him renew his Permanent Employee Registration Card, which is required to work as a security guard in Illinois. So he stuck around.

    “I always said when you down and somebody helps you, then you help the next person,” Ruffus said.

    Now he helps to advocate for the program, telling other Veterans how it can help them.

    “A lot of these Veterans, and that’s including myself, are very proud. We have a hard time accepting handouts,” he said. “But they’re not handing you nothing — you gotta work for it.”

    Wagner says the Stand Down is like Christmas for her, but she works to help Veterans year round, offering computer access, assistance with job certifications, mock interviews and workshops.

    “If a Veteran came in to me a month from now and said ‘I need a winter coat, hat and gloves,’ they’d get it. ‘I got a job, I need steel-toe boots,’ we get it. We take care of them because that’s what Goodwill does,” she said.

    Once their clients have jobs, employment services at Goodwill Commons, 2319 E. War Memorial Drive, make sure they can overcome all the other barriers, like uniforms, licenses, equipment or even knives for a budding chef.

    “There’s jobs out there, but we need to understand that there’s more than just showing up on Monday morning at 8 o’clock. There’s other things that are factored in,” Wagner said.


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  • Homeless Female


    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of female homeless Veterans is on the rise.

    A home was dedicated Thursday in Maplewood to honor their service by helping some women Veterans in their time of need.

    A five-bedroom, four-bath home is the result of a partnership between the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, Lennar homes and Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.

    MAC-V will take five homeless female Veterans and place them in this structured independent living home. There will also be services to help these Veterans get the resources they need.

    “We’re going to come around them with wraparound services, case manage all the way through and we stay with them for two years and beyond to make sure that they’re getting stabilized.”

    There are 30,000 female Veterans in Minnesota. Twenty women are currently on the registry for housing.


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  • SD 100 Homeless Vets


    About 100 homeless Veterans in San Diego County will receive vouchers for subsidized housing through $1.1 million in funds released this week from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The money will fund 50 housing vouchers administered by the city of San Diego Housing Commission and 50 vouchers administered by the San Diego County Housing Authority.

    The new vouchers are in addition to 1,031 vouchers already in use to subsidize housing for San Diego Veterans countywide.

    “We have few responsibilities greater than making sure those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country have a home they can call their own,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement Thursday.

    “The housing vouchers awarded today ensure homeless Veterans nationwide have access to affordable housing and the critical support services from the VA,” Carson said.

    Nationwide, $35.3 million has been released to fund 4,077 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers. Of that, $18.3 million is going to California for 1,658 vouchers.

    The rental assistance announced Thursday is provided through the HUD-VASH Program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.

    “When our neighbors answer our country’s call to service, we must answer their call when they return home,” HUD Deputy Regional Administrator Wayne Sauseda said in the news release. “Together with the VA, HUD remains committed to meeting the supportive housing needs of Veterans, so that, one day, we end Veteran homelessness in San Diego.”

    Since 2008, more than 93,000 vouchers have been awarded and about 150,000 homeless Veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program nationwide.

    More than 600 public housing agencies administer the HUD-VASH program, and this most recent award includes 22 new agencies, increasing coverage to many communities.

    The program also helps VA Medical Centers assess Veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for vouchers.

    Decisions are based on how long a person has been homeless and the need for longer-term care, among other factors.

    Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless Veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


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  • Homeless Vet Finds Kindness


    BEDFORD — At 2 a.m. on a chilly May morning, Norman Franks sat slumped in a chair in a TV lounge at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, fighting for snatches of sleep under the glare of ceiling lights, he said.

    A Navy Veteran of the late 1970s, Franks had led a troubled life. His addiction to crack cocaine led to a long series of armed robberies, which led to 15 years in prison. Now, he found himself homeless.

    Franks wanted a clean start, but first he needed a place to live. With no good options, he made his way to the Bedford Veterans complex, an outpost of a sprawling federal agency that takes its motto from Abraham Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.”

    They had to take him in, Franks thought.

    Instead, he spent the night in the woods, shivering under a tarp. He stayed there for four of the next five nights, then spent the next four months in a cramped tent in a campsite on the grounds of Hanscom Air Force Base.

    As the weeks passed, Franks fell deeper into despair. But slowly, unexpectedly, he was reclaiming some of his life, thanks to a devoted group of strangers — members of an American Legion post, volunteers from a Catholic parish, even from a congressman’s staff — who felt obliged to aid a Veteran in need.

    “We had to help this man,” said Catherine Giorato, an auxiliary member at American Legion Post 221 in Bedford. “If we turn away a Veteran at the American Legion, we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

    Franks, 58, is angry at how the VA handled his case, arguing that he never should have been turned away that May night when the temperature fell into the 40s, or to have lived at a campground for so long.

    When he arrived at the hospital that May evening, Franks said, he was told by a VA social worker that he might be able to sleep undisturbed in the TV lounge. But in the middle of the night, Franks said, he was awoken by a rap on the chair and ordered to leave.

    “I don’t have any place to go,” he mumbled.

    “I don’t give a [expletive]. You’re out,” the VA security officer answered, according to Franks.

    Wearing only a T-shirt and shorts, Franks stumbled into the night and dropped to the ground at the half-hidden edge of the VA property, resting against a tree and wrapped in the tarp he had taken from a small VA dump truck.

    VA officials said they have no record of an encounter that night between Franks and VA security officers. Under the Bedford VA’s policy, any Veteran who turns up homeless can be sheltered in the urgent-care area if no other beds are available, agency officials said.

    Franks did contact the VA by phone three days later and discuss housing options, officials added. The next day, Franks declined an offer to be placed in a Haverhill facility affiliated with the VA, according to Ken Link, chief of social work services at the Bedford VA.

    “Mr. Franks was offered multiple shelter options, but he did not care for the shelter options we were offering him,” Link said.

    Those options included transportation to the New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston and other facilities closer to Bedford. But Franks said he declined because posttraumatic stress from his years in the Navy and prison have made living in close quarters nearly impossible.

    As it turned out, Franks was not on his own. Help came from the American Legion, where Franks’s first, desperate call in the following days was answered by Giorato, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology locksmith who tends bar at the post.

    “He explained he had no place to stay, and he asked if we could do anything,” Giorato said. “So, I spoke with everybody at the bar. People started taking $20 bills out of their wallets, and we probably raised $200” for a night’s stay in a hotel across the street.

    A few days later, Franks called again.

    “It was pouring rain. It was terrible. He had no food,” Giorato said. “I picked him up and took him to Stop & Shop, where we bought about $120 of food. I kept saying, ‘Get this, get this, get this.’ He was very proud and very embarrassed and kept saying, ‘That’s too much money.’ ”

    The post also pitched in with blankets and other basic comforts.

    “I found him very sincere, a nice man, and down on his luck,” Giorato said. “He couldn’t have been more apologetic.”

    Franks said he soon was directed to the Hanscom campsite and helped by a local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a Catholic organization that assists people in need. Its members took him shopping for camping equipment, bought him gift cards for groceries, and paid the $18 daily fee charged by FamCamp, the Air Force campsite, Franks said.

    Through it all, Franks said, he regularly called VA officials and caseworkers. In the summer, he was approved for placement at Bedford Green, a VA-linked development of 69 furnished apartments for older Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming so.

    But that approval was suspended after the VA determined Franks had behavioral issues that might affect other residents at the complex, Link said.

    “He was not ready, and there was concern it would not be conducive to the overall health of the environment,” according to the social work chief.

    Franks said he became increasingly distraught.

    “I was thinking about going back to my old ways, robbing somebody,” Franks said. “But I couldn’t do it. People were taking care of me. They were stepping up. They’ve been unbelievable.”

    Yet with cold weather only a few months away, Franks wondered anew where he would live. Help arrived once more, this time from the office of US Representative Seth Moulton of Salem, a Marine Corps Veteran whose staff made calls on his behalf, Franks said.

    Finally, Franks found a federally subsidized apartment on his own in Acton, where he moved Sept. 26. The VA provided a tenant voucher for the new apartment, helped with the application, and referred him to movers.

    “We really do want to help homeless Veterans, and we want homeless Veterans to feel encouraged to come here,” Link said.

    When Franks moved to his new apartment, following a stop at a furniture bank that helps the poor and homeless, the two-bedroom unit felt like a palace. Giorato, the post auxiliary member who answered his plea, said she is thrilled.

    “I hope we continue to keep in touch,” Giorato said. “I still want to help him with whatever he needs — dishes, glasses. Between all of us girls, we have extra things in our basements.”

    For his part, Franks said he hopes to be licensed soon to operate heavy equipment in Massachusetts. He has been trained for the job, he said, and wants to move ahead and leave his past behind.

    “I did my time. I’m not going back. I’m focused on going forward,” Franks said.

    He also does not want to be homeless again.

    “If I can help just one other Vet from being in this position, then this has been worth it,” Franks said. “No one should be living in the woods for four months.”


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  • Janesville Houses Homeless


    Tom Kimball served four years of active duty starting in 1954 and four years in the reserves as a Navy corpsman.

    Today, the 83-year-old lives in a dormitory setting at a former nursing home between Janesville and Beloit in the Housing 4 Our Vets program.

    Kimball would not discuss how he became homeless about five years ago. He’s in the facility now for the second time but feels comfortable about his plans to move to Wausau and take care of himself.

    He wasn’t homeless in the way people often think of homeless men: destitute and sleeping under bridges.

    In fact, it’s rare for that kind of homeless Veteran to stay at the facility, part of the former Caravilla Nursing Home, officials said.

    Why can’t we end homelessness, at least for our military Veterans? A look at Housing 4 Our Vets offers some clues.

    For starters, the 48-bed facility always has about 12 openings, officials said.

    A woman showed up at the facility last week, crying. Her Marine-Veteran son needed help.

    Rock Valley Director Angel Eggers said she doesn’t know how the woman knew about the facility, but she’s glad there’s room for him.

    More often, Eggers runs into people who didn’t know the Housing 4 Our Vets program exists.

    “It has been a struggle getting the word out,” Eggers said, speculating that more homeless Vets might apply if they knew about it.

    Some Veterans don’t think of themselves as Veterans, Eggers said. Some don’t know they qualify for a wide range of VA benefits.

    “We’ve had guys who could’ve had benefits for years but never knew,” she said.

    Eggers gave the mother of the Marine Veteran an application form and put her in touch with people who would help her son fill it out.

    The Veterans Administration must approve the application, usually in five to seven days. Eggers said this case sounded promising.

    The Janesville Gazette reports that Housing 4 Our Veterans takes in male Veterans for a maximum of two years from parts of four states.

    The program at the former Caravilla Nursing Home is a contractor for the VA, which runs the federal government’s effort to end Veteran homelessness.

    The local program forbids the use of drugs or alcohol, one of the reasons some homeless won’t go there, said Julie Lenzendorf, program administrator.

    “I’ve heard, ‘I’m a grown man. I don’t want to quit drinking,’” Lenzendorf said.

    Staff members understand that recovering from addiction means relapses, but men can be ejected from the program if they don’t take advantage of the treatment provided and continue to return to the facility drunk or drugged.

    Others don’t want to live with a roommate, another program requirement.

    For those who go through the program, the success rate exceeds the VA’s goal of 65 percent, Eggers said.

    The VA defines success as a discharge into independent, permanent housing, but some Veterans stay for a time with family before getting their own apartments, or they go to a long-term care facility, so those are not registered as successes, Eggers said.

    Very few exit the facility and become homeless again, Lenzendorf said.

    “We do everything we can (to prevent that),” Eggers added.

    Services the local program provides are critical to success, said Eggers.

    A key service is drug/alcohol counseling. The program has a high population of recovering substance abusers.

    Residents can also get help for mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress and housing/employment counseling.

    “The guys we see have pretty complex needs. That’s why I’m thrilled with the VA, that they give these guys two years (to work on their problems),” Eggers said.

    George Kearn was the first Veteran to use the facility when it opened in 2011.

    Kearn now is assistant manager at Full Circle Furnishings, an offshoot of the homeless-Vets program. All profits support the program. It’s a job he loves.

    Kearn’s own homelessness was brief. He was getting a divorce and needed a place to stay in 2011. The VA pointed him to the new program. He did so well he was hired to help run the place and stayed for nearly two years.

    The Navy Veteran, 73, served in Vietnam as a radio operator on a high-speed amphibious transport that dropped off underwater demolition specialists on Vietnamese shores.

    Kearn thinks the homeless program is needed, especially to help Veterans transition to civilian life.

    But he believes some Veterans use the system for housing when they could provide for themselves.

    Housing 4 Our Vets is in two wings of the former nursing home complex.

    The Veterans and former prisoners have different meal times and gym times, but they can encounter each other in the halls or grounds. One thing the program is not is an emergency shelter. Veterans must apply and be accepted under guidelines dictated by the Veterans Administration.

    The Veterans program employs a manager, two case workers, one intake workers/substance abuse counselor, a full-time staff assistant and several part-time assistants.

    It will cost an estimated $726,355 to run this year, most of that coming from the Veterans Administration, Eggers said.

    A VA social worker spends at least one day a week at Rock Valley.

    Residents who have income, such as from jobs or pensions, must pay 30 percent of their income in rent, not to exceed $224 a month.

    To gain entry, residents must be adult males with a non-dishonorable discharge from the military. They must be able to take care of their daily-living needs; the facility does not provide nursing-home-style assistance.

    They must prove they are sober, and drug tests and breathalyzer tests are administered randomly.

    The Veterans section includes a common room, where residents can watch TV, play cards or host visitors.

    Visitors are not allowed in the rooms, which are small but include full baths and kitchenettes.

    The program features a mandatory life-skills course.

    Kimball and another current resident, Michael Cerda, said they don’t like the requirement that they take life skills training because they know how to brush their teeth, take a shower and otherwise care for themselves.

    Cerda, 32, a former gunner’s mate in the Navy, arrived at Rock Valley last year. He became homeless when he was living with family, and problems developed.

    Cerda works a second-shift manufacturing job in Delavan and owns his own car.

    Cerda doesn’t like the curfew of 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, but he’s willing to suffer the annoyances.

    He plans to use his full two years so he can be sure he has enough money saved to rent an apartment and be successful, he said.

    Cerda likes the food and can order a sack lunch to take to work. Residents are taken on field trips, such as Milwaukee Brewers games and bowling, and cookouts are held on the grounds.

    Local groups provide cookies and other snacks, especially during the holidays, he said.

    Cerda had a roommate who was an alcoholic and was found outside almost frozen to death, he said.

    Residents are encouraged to have hobbies. Cerda paints and modifies miniature soldiers and plays war games with them.

    Rock Valley is expanding its programming for Veterans. It’s renovating a vacant wing of the old nursing home for a 23-bed transitional living facility scheduled to open in May.

    Graduates of Housing 4 Our Veterans who can’t find housing after two years will be able to apply to move to the new wing, where they’ll have a room of their own at low rents for up to three years.

    Work on the gutted wing has been slow in part because officials want to pay for it without a loan. That will mean more fundraising, Eggers said.

    President Barack Obama’s administration set out to fix the problem of Veterans homelessness in 2010 by revamping the VA’s programming, and it yielded some results, according to the VA website.

    The VA says homelessness between 2010 and 2013, as measured by the number of homeless Veterans on a single night in January, dropped from 76,329 to 57,849.

    The revamped program included collaborating with community-based treatment and supportive services, such as the one at Rock Valley. It also started a new program that took a radically different approach.

    The new program is called Housing First. It gives Veterans vouchers to pay for apartments without requiring that they stay off alcohol or drugs or complete treatment before getting housing.

    Housing First recipients do get help for mental health, substance abuse and other needs, but that comes after they have a roof over their heads.

    Eggers doesn’t see how that will work, and she wouldn’t want to use it at Rock Valley, but it’s still a part of the VA’s approach.

    The jury appears to be out on Housing First, which also is being used for non-Veterans in programs around the country.

    ‘Everybody gets along’

    Kimball likes his room and the food. He said he gets plenty of exercise in the gym, and he has made friends.

    Residents must clean windows and floors and do other chores, and they must keep their own rooms tidy.

    “We’ve all been through it at one time, when we were in the service, so it’s nothing new to us,” he said.

    Smoking is allowed in designated areas.

    “They’re very strict about that,” Kimball said.

    Women are not allowed in the rooms, and there’s no fighting, although “everybody gets along pretty well. A few problems here and there, but that comes with the territory.”

    Kimball said residents don’t ask each other how they got there, but he knows of many who come from the street.

    Residents are allowed to sign themselves out of the facility overnight, “as long as you’ve been behaving yourself,” Kimball said.

    Sheriff’s deputies are called for fighting or drunken driving, Kimball said, but he’s seen that happen only three times, and he feels safe.

    “It’s a well-run, peaceful place,” he said. “It’s really a haven for us.”


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  • Garden Serves


    Tending to a garden is part of the recovery process for a group of homeless Veterans at the Jefferson Barracks VA health care campus.

    About 100 Veterans each year will plant and harvest vegetables while learning about healthy eating through the Boots in the Dirt program.

    The garden is about “celebrating what we have accomplished and remembering what we have yet to do in our life,” said Erin McInerney-Ernst, program manager for the Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans in the St. Louis VA Health Care System. “It’s supposed to evolve and grow like our folks in recovery.”

    The Domiciliary Care program is a six-month residential treatment program for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction or other setbacks that have left them homeless. The first half of the program focuses on recovery, and the second half allows the Veteran to prepare a resume, search for a job and find permanent housing.

    There are five raised beds in the garden that have already produced peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and okra. St. Louis Composting donated a soil mixture and Home Depot provided lumber for the beds.

    Future plans include a butterfly garden and a canopy for climbing vegetables. Extra produce will be donated to the food pantry at Jefferson Barracks.

    A co-founder of the Boots in the Dirt program said she wanted to share the benefits of gardening with fellow Veterans.

    “Without gardening I don’t know that I would have done as well,” said Linda White at a ceremony Wednesday in the garden. “Gardening is very therapeutic. It’s good for exercise. It helps combat loneliness.”

    Replacing a grassy lawn, the garden has become a gathering spot and brings “purpose and meaning and beauty out of something that feels barren and purposeless at the beginning,” McInerney-Ernst said. “It’s Veterans giving back to Veterans. In the recovery model, when you reach recovery, then it is expected that you give to the person who is not quite there yet.”


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  • SD Housing Comm


    SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials singled out the San Diego Housing Commission for its efforts to help house homeless military Veterans, city officials announced Monday.

    The commission received an Award of Excellence from the NAHRO -- which named 22 award recipients nationwide -- for the Housing Our Heroes program, which has helped more than 1,000 homeless Veterans find rental housing in San Diego. The city launched the program in March 2016 after the San Diego City Council unanimously approved funding for it.

    "The success of our innovative `Housing Our Heroes' program in getting over 1,000 Veterans off the street and into permanent homes is a testament to the creativity of city leaders, the San Diego Housing Commission and, most importantly, the landlords who stepped up to be part of the solution," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

    In order to house the city's homeless Veterans, the program gave incentives to property owners in certain ZIP codes in San Diego and National City who offered rental properties to homeless Veterans. The city also awarded vouchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and made assistance payments for upfront move-in costs to homeless residents who were placed in housing via the program.

    The city received support from myriad organizations to fund and administer program services, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    "The Housing Our Heroes initiative proved what we can accomplish when government agencies, landlords and service providers work together. I thank the mayor and the City Council for their leadership and support of this effort, as well as our partners and the staff at the San Diego Housing Commission. This national recognition is well-deserved," said Housing Commission board Chairman Frank Urtasun.

    The NAHRO will present the Award of Excellence to the Housing Commission at the organization's annual conference on Oct. 26.


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  • Tiny Houses 002


    (CNN) — Leo Morris served in the Air Force. Karen Carter patrolled with the Coast Guard. Henry Owens enlisted in the Navy.

    These Veterans all served their country. They’ve also shared another experience: homelessness.

    “You feel a sense of desperation, loneliness,” said Owens, who was homeless for eight years. “I had no hope.”

    Today, they have another common bond: They are neighbors. Each one lives in a tiny home in the Veterans’ Village in Kansas City, Missouri — run by the Veterans Community Project.

    The nonprofit is the vision of a group of young Veterans led by former US Army Corporal Chris Stout.

    After being wounded in Afghanistan in 2005 and returning home, Stout struggled with his injury and PTSD. He enjoyed being around Veterans and got a job connecting Vets to services they needed. But he was frustrated by the gaps and inefficiencies he saw. At times, Stout used his own money to put homeless Veterans up in hotel rooms.

    In 2015, he and a few buddies quit their jobs and started their organization.

    “We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”

    Stout found that many homeless Veterans didn’t like traditional shelters because they were unsafe or lacked privacy. When he learned about tiny homes, he quickly realized that a cluster of them made a lot of sense.

    “It provides everything these guys need to live with dignity, safely, and then fix what got them there in the first place,” he said.

    The first 13 homes opened in January, and 13 more will be finished this November. The houses come complete with furniture, kitchen supplies, linens, toiletries, food and even gift baskets of coffee and cookies.

    The group’s outreach center assists residents as well as any local Veteran with a variety of issues.

    “Tiny houses are the sexy piece,” Stout said. “But the meat and potatoes of what we do is connecting them to the services. … We’re a one-stop shop for all things Veteran.”

    The Veterans Village itself provides valuable support: camaraderie.

    “It’s very much like the barracks lifestyle,” Stout said. “They’re taking care of each other.”

    Since he moved in this summer, Owens has gone back to school and has started a lawn care business. He says the support has changed his life.

    “Now I have hope,” he said. “It makes me love my country again.”

    CNN’s Kathleen Toner spoke with Stout about his work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

    CNN: How long are Veterans able to stay in the tiny homes?

    Chris Stout: Our anticipated length of stay is six months, but as long as they’re working towards their goals, they’re welcome to stay. We see these tiny homes as an educational tool to teach them how to maintain a home, cook for themselves and live next to neighbors. So far, eight of the original 13 residents have moved into permanent housing. They take their furniture with them, so it takes about 72 hours to prepare a home for the next resident.

    In addition to the 13 homes that will open in November, another 23 are set to be finished after the first of the year, so that’ll be 49 houses all together. We’ll also have a community center providing medical, dental, barbershop, Veterinarian care, as well as a fellowship hall, so we can have group events.

    CNN: The tiny homes are for homeless Veterans. What assistance does your group offer other Veterans?

    Stout: One of our flagship programs is our free bus passes for all Veterans. We partnered with the local transit authority and they’ve given out more than a million rides in less than a year.

    When any Veteran walks in the door they can get their bus pass, housing placement, job placement, legal services, food pantry, clothing closet and emergency financial assistance. We like to have them say, “What do you provide?” That way we can ask them “What do you need?” And then we can start being the connectors. So far, we have helped more than 8,000 Veterans.

    CNN: What role does the community play in your work?

    Stout: We’re called the Veterans Community Project because we are the community’s project. We want people to feel like they have ownership in this, and we want everybody to pitch in. When the Veterans see all these volunteers show up, they’ll say, “Why are they here?” And we explain, “They’re grateful.”

    The really cool part is that we’ve been reached out to by more than 650-plus communities. We’re working in Denver, Nashville and St. Louis. Our goal is to be in every major city moving forward.

    CNN: You gave up a lot to do this work.

    Stout: I gave up my job, mortgaged my house, spent my life savings — worried my wife to death! But I get to work with a group of people that I can relate to. They’re my friends. When I see a win for them, that’s huge. It’s a celebration for me. That’s what gets me going every day.

    We all went through basic. We all served. This is just my way to serve them.


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  • White House 001


    Veteran homelessness in the U.S. continues to decline, according to a new national estimate announced today by U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson.

    HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report finds the total number of reported Veterans experiencing homelessness in 2018 decreased 5.4 percent since last year, falling to nearly half the number of homeless Veterans reported in 2010.

    In announcing the latest annual estimate, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie and HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted that local communities are reporting reductions in the number of Veterans in their shelter systems and on their streets. View local estimates of Veteran homelessness at this link.

    “The reduction in homelessness among Veterans announced today shows that the strategies we are using to help the most vulnerable Veterans become stably housed are working,” said VA Secretary Wilkie. “This is good news for all Veterans.”

    “We owe it to our Veterans to make certain they have a place to call home,” said HUD Secretary Carson. “We’ve made great strides in our efforts to end Veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure those who wore our nation’s uniform have access to stable housing.”

    “In ‘Home, Together,’ the new federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, we redouble our commitment to ending homelessness among Veterans and among all Americans,” said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Working together at the federal, state and local level, we can and will continue to make progress until all Americans have a stable home from which they can pursue opportunity.”

    Each year, thousands of local communities around the country conduct one-night “Point-in-Time” estimates of the number of persons experiencing homelessness — in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered locations. This year’s estimate finds 37,878 Veterans experienced homelessness in January 2018, compared with 40,020 reported in January 2017. HUD estimates among the total number of reported Veterans experiencing homelessness in 2018, 23,312 Veterans were found in sheltered settings, while volunteers counted 14,566 Veterans living in places not meant for human habitation.

    HUD also reports a nearly 10 percent decline among female Veterans experiencing homelessness. In January 2018, local communities reported 3,219 homeless female Veterans compared with 3,571 one year earlier.

    The decrease in Veteran homelessness can largely be attributed to the effectiveness of the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines permanent HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA. HUD-VASH is complemented by a continuum of VA programs that use modern tools and technology to identify the most vulnerable Veterans and rapidly connect them to the appropriate interventions to become and remain stably housed.

    Last year alone, more than 4,000 Veterans, many experiencing chronic forms of homelessness, found permanent housing and critically needed support services through the HUD-VASH program. An additional 50,000 Veterans found permanent housing and supportive services through VA’s continuum of homeless programs.

    To date, 64 local communities and three states have declared an effective end to Veteran homelessness, creating systems to ensure that a Veteran’s homelessness is rare, brief, and one-time. For a map of the communities that have ended homelessness, go to this link.

    HUD and VA have a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at More information about HUD’s program is available here. Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact their local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator or call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).


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  • Homeless Drops 5


    The number of Veterans living in shelters or on the streets dropped by about five percent between January 2017 and January 2018 -- from about 40,000 to nearly 37,900 -- despite slight increases on the West Coast, according to the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs.

    The decline followed a slight uptick in the previous year.

    "Our nation's approach to ending Veterans homelessness is working," HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said Thursday in a conference call with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

    The new data also shows a 10 percent drop in homelessness for women Veterans over the reporting period, from 3,571 to 3,219.

    "It's not good enough, but it's better," Wilkie said, adding that continuing declines in the estimates for the number of homeless Veterans on any given night will depend upon providing the services many homeless Veterans will need once they find housing through the HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) voucher program.

    "You get into an endless cycle if you don't address the other issues" that can leave a Veteran on the street, such as drug and alcohol addiction, Wilkie said.

    He called homelessness "part of a series of larger crises" involving suicide rates, mental health issues and opioid addiction among Veterans.

    "It's a difficult problem," Carson said, "because not every Veteran is going to come to us and say: 'Please help.'"

    Despite the overall decline in Veterans homelessness, there were slight increases in West Coast big cities, said Norm Suchar, director of Special Needs Assistance Programs at HUD, who joined the call.

    Wilkie cited West Los Angeles, where he said about half of the homeless Veterans were from the Vietnam era and were suffering from "many problems building for 50 years."

    The overall decline through January 2018 followed a slight increase in Veterans homelessness in the first year of President Donald Trump's administration, from 39,471 to 40,020, according to HUD figures.

    Unlike the previous administration, Wilkie and Carson did not attempt to set a date for ending the problem of Veterans' homelessness entirely.

    In 2010, President Barack Obama and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki set the ambitious goal of getting all Veterans housed by 2015.

    The Obama administration's effort resulted in a dramatic decline, from 74,000 homeless Veterans in 2010 to about 47,700 in 2015, but the number still stood at about 39,400 when Obama left office, according to HUD figures.

    Carson would only say that the goal for the Trump administration was to get all Veterans housed "as soon as possible."

    "We owe it to our Veterans to make certain they have a place to call home," Carson said. "We've made great strides in our efforts to end Veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure those who wore our nation's uniform have access to stable housing."

    The latest figures, the result of surveys of homeless Veterans, showed that about 23,000 Veterans, from the total homeless count of 37,878, were living out of shelters and about 14,500 were on the street in what HUD called "places not meant for human habitation."

    Wilkie and Carson said that three states -- Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut -- and 64 communities nationwide had "effectively ended" Veterans homelessness. The list of the 64 communities can be found here.


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  • Robert Wilkie 12


    ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs toured an annual Anchorage event Friday that connects homeless Veterans with social services.

    “We have to do a better job finding those Veterans in rural parts of this state who are hard to get to and get them into our VA system,“ said Secretary Robert Wilkie, who is now at the helm of the VA.

    Bernard Shavings, an Alaska Native Navy Veteran who has experienced homelessness in the past, echoed that sentiment. He said it’s more complicated serving people in the villages because of long travel distances.

    Wilkie spoke about some of the successes the VA has had in Alaska, saying the state is “the template” for changes at the department, including testing out the new electronic health record.

    Sen. Dan Sullivan, R - Alaska, came with Wilkie to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for the 26th annual Stand Down Anchorage event to speak about the oversized contribution Alaska Natives have made to the U.S. military.

    At the event, hundreds of homeless Veterans and those in jeopardy were given supplies including sleeping bags and bunny boots and connected to social services. Many took advantage of a free haircut and a shared a meal.

    “A lot of us need it, we come home, we're lost, people push us away, thank God there are programs that do help us,” said William Schultz, a Veteran of the U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne. “Thank God there are people who believe in us, care enough to help us.”

    Schultz has lived on the streets for around 18 months, and was at the event to pick up a sleeping bag, shirt and supplies for winter. He says he is looking to get stable, permanent housing.

    Jo Snow, a fellow U.S. Army Vet, had experienced homelessness for around four years but turned her life around with help from the VA. Snow said that she now spends time volunteering to help other Veterans with their paperwork to get services.

    “My heart goes out to my brothers and sisters in the armed forces,” said Snow.

    During a phone call to Channel 2, Nancy Burke, Housing and Homeless Services Coordinator with the Municipality of Anchorage, said a point-in-time count done in January found 73 homeless Veterans living in Anchorage, with another 70 living in other parts of Alaska.

    Robin Dempsey, program director of homeless family services at Catholic Social Services, said a $500,000 grant from the feds allowed them to help 105 households with a Veteran in the past year.

    Dempsey described some of the unique challenges that come with serving Veterans, higher rates of PTSD mean that consistency and certainty are often more important than for the population in general.

    Burke also described there are anecdotal accounts that some Veterans struggle with crowded public housing, again due to PTSD.

    Dempsey said that there are four people on the CSS team who serve homeless Veterans, two of which are themselves Veterans, a role they describe as a privilege.


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  • Website Updates 002 

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