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  • Homeless Vets Perm Housing

     

    The grand opening of a permanent housing facility in Mission Valley means that dozens of homeless Veterans now have a safe place to live.

    More than 80 Veterans will be housed at Zephyr, a new permanent supportive housing facility for homeless Veterans off Interstate 8 and Mission Gorge Road.

    "It’s very beneficial to have someplace safe and secure," said Marine Corps Veteran Brian, who did not want to provide his last name but moved into the facility two weeks ago.

    The facility was was transformed from what was once a defunct Motel 6. Now, it's a beautiful, gated apartment complex where those who served our country and fell on hard times can get the services needed to get back on their feet.

    The units are low-income and Veterans will need to pay about a third of the rent, the San Diego Housing Commission pays for the rest of the rent through vouchers.

    Each apartment has its own kitchen and bathroom and most importantly -- according to some of the Veterans moving in -- a door for privacy, which they don't get on the streets, or in most shelters.

    "Above everything, I think it’s my privacy. The ability to walk into my own place, close the door behind me and call this place home, that’s comforting. It makes my day," said Richard, a Veteran who did not want to provide his last name.

    The Veterans who live in the building are part of a two-year transitional program that aims to get them into more permanent housing. Part of the services available include on-site counselors and mental health professionals.

    "This is an excellent support system that they have here, so if there’s anything that needs to be addressed – whether its mental health, physical, financial – they’re here for you and I think that’s important," Richard said.

    The majority of the building's occupants, including Richard and Brian, have already moved in. The facility managers, Affirmed Housing, hope to have the rest of the residents moved in by the end of the month.

    This is the third permanent supportive housing project to open in San Diego from Affirmed Housing. The development company partners with Path, a homelessness support group, to provide resources to its residents.

    Source

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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.”

    Source

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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.

    Source

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  • Bronx Army Reserve

     

    The defunct Joseph A. Muller Army Reserve Center in The Bronx will soon provide 90 units of affordable housing exclusively marketed to formerly homeless military Veterans and low-income households.

    Designed by MHG Architects, 555 Nereid Avenue will include 54 studio units for formerly homeless Veterans and 35 affordable units for local households. One additional unit will be reserved for a building superintendent. Residential amenities will include a 123-seat lecture hall, educational programs and cultural activities, on-site social services, a laundry room, bike storage, and a private yard.

    The total gut renovation of the four-story building is expected to last about two years.

    “We are deeply proud to transform the former Joseph A. Muller Center into 90 modern, beautiful, high-quality homes for people who desperately need stability after experiencing hardship and homelessness, especially for the 54 Veterans who have bravely served our country and who will soon call 555 Nereid Avenue home,” said George T. McDonald, founder and president of The Doe Fund, the non-profit organization responsible for the development. “We are so very grateful for the input from community members and the surrounding neighborhood, and for all of the partners who helped make this project possible so that together, we can continue to improve the lives of our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

    The development team also includes the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

    Source

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  • Volunteers to Help

     

    NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Handymen and women, electricians, plumbers, sheetrock and flooring experts, painters and lots of other helpers are needed to help renovate future apartments for homeless Veterans in the Lowcountry.

    The Tri-County Veterans Support Network is looking for volunteers on Saturday, March 23 starting at 9 a.m.

    Volunteers are asked to help for 2-4 hours.

    The location is in North Charleston by the old Navy Base.

    There are volunteer opportunities on multiple Saturdays and also volunteer opportunities one day during the week.

    Both solo volunteers and small groups are encouraged to help volunteer.

    Donations of home building materials, including windows, flooring, appliances, cabinetry and other housing materials are also needed.

    To help out in any way, call Tim at 843-276-2840 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    The Tri-County Veteran Support Network is a collaborative community response of organizations across the Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties to create stability in the lives of Veterans and their families.

    For more information about the Tri-County Veterans Network, visit their Facebook page here, click on this link for a video.

    To make a donation to the effort, click here.

    Source

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  • CALVET HOMES

     

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

  • Shelters for Homeless

     

    ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. -- What started as a simple carpentry project at A.L. Brown High School quickly turned into a village of tiny shelters for Veterans, thanks to some donated resources and a bright idea from senior Makenzie Davis.

    • One student says she felt the need to help
    • The carpentry class built three shelters in one semester
    • The group is also working with local homeless shelters

    After learning about the problem of Veteran homelessness in North Carolina, Davis says she felt the need to do something to help.

    While building other structures in her carpentry class, she asked her teacher, Jim Busse what if they could build for Veterans in need.

    In just one semester, the class put together three shelters now placed at Wisdom Way, a horse rehabilitation center in Rowan County, in hopes of Veterans getting a leg up in a time of need.

    "I know this is going to turn into something huge that will help not only Veterans, but other people in the community that will come out and work with the horses and get to experience everything we’re doing out here,” Davis said.

    The group is working with local homeless shelters and Veteran services to find Veterans who may be interested in the shelters.

    With the help of Wisdom Way, the class hopes the Veterans will get the help they need through the shelters and be able to help the horse rehabilitation center as well.

    Source

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  • 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.

    Source

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  • Domonique Union

     

    It's harder than ever for military Veterans experiencing homelessness in Nashville to get back on their feet because of high housing costs.

    Landlords, focused on the bottom line as property values swell, are increasingly unwilling to accept below-market rent payments through subsidized housing programs like Section 8.

    The resulting uptick in Veterans in crisis who find themselves sleeping on the street, on friends’ couches, in cars or in other temporary housing has drawn attention from public social service agencies and private citizens.

    Late last year, a new partnership between Metro Homeless Impact Division, Tennessee Valley Healthcare Systems and other nonprofit and social services organizations launched to entice landlords to make more affordable units available.

    The effort, named 90 in 90, sought to place 90 homeless Vets in homes in 90 days from October through December.

    But they couldn't find enough willing landlords and only housed 59 people – more than double the typical placement rate, but short of their goal.

    "Landlords would offer rents that are way too high," said Metro Homeless Impact Division Director Judith Tackett. "No voucher is going to cover houses for rent for close to $2,000 per month."

    'Their rates are too high'

    There are about 250 homeless Veterans trying to get into permanent housing now in Nashville, according to Metro officials. That's up from about 180 people in October.

    The 90-in-90 campaign drew resources from a number of federal, state and local agencies dedicated to helping Veterans and the homeless. They produced a brochure promoting a $1,000 incentive to Nashville-area landlords who house Veterans, and called landlords asking for their participation.

    The campaign succeeded in more than doubling the number of homeless Veterans typically housed monthly, from 8 to 20 people.

    But, even with 11 partner agencies working on the issue, they couldn't persuade enough landlords to participate to meet their goal of housing 90 Veterans in three months.

    "We definitely have a lot of landlords who have a natural desire to help Veterans," said said Jackie Hall Williams, supportive housing supervisor for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Veterans affairs division, which participated in the campaign. "We all know there is a limited amount of affordable housing in this area. There are a lot of landlords who would love to partner with us but their rates are too high."

    Building new affordable housing

    In lieu of finding affordable rents, advocacy groups have partnered with private developers to build their own low-cost housing for Veterans.

    Construction will begin on a new $7.3 million 39-unit Veterans-only apartment complex this month in Edgehill. It's set to open in about a year.

    That project, called Curb Victory Hall, is financed by federal low-interest loans, the Tennessee Housing Trust Fund and a $500,000 grant from Curb Records founder Mike Curb.

    It was designed with volunteer efforts from developer Tony Giarratana, nonprofit Veterans services agency Operation Stand Down and the Metropolitan Housing and Development Agency.

    "We wanted this project to serve as a new model for public-private partnerships to try to address the issue of affordable housing," Giarratana said. "We hope other developers and investors will come together and do likewise."

    The building is next to Operation Stand Down, which will provide job training and other resources for Veterans living there at 12th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue.

    MDHA will manage the property of one- and two-bedroom apartments. It will be available to low-income Veterans earning less than $26,250.

    "We work with Veterans who have Section 8 housing vouchers in hand but are just not finding an opening," said Operation Stand Down CEO John Krenson. "This will be a great deal of relief for them."

    Searching for a home

    Domonique Union, who served as an administrative specialist for the U.S. Marines, recently found herself homeless and seeking help at Operation Stand Down earlier this month.

    She is one of the roughly 250 Veterans trying to get into permanent housing.

    Union, her sister and her three-year-old son moved to Nashville last year from St. Louis, hoping to find better work opportunities.

    They moved in with a family member and Union got a job driving trucks. But, after a dispute with the family member, they were on the street and Union was out of a job.

    "I've never encountered a situation like this before. I've never not had a home for my child," Union said. "It really sucks."

    Operation Stand Down is paying for a hotel room for Union and her family in Antioch while she looks for a job and place to live.

    Their InTown Suites room has a small kitchen, a bed and a couch. Union's sister helps with her son, Melvin Jr., while she hunts for a job and apartment in the Hermitage and La Vergne area.

    Operation Stand Down will pay her application fees and the first few month's rent while she gets stabilized. She's had several interviews for clerical jobs.

    Union said she's trying to stay positive and make the best of the situation, and the help from Operation Stand Down has given her more confidence.

    "I don't want my son growing up in a hotel room," Union said. "I'm so thankful I came across Operation Stand Down. They helped out with a lot of things and that really takes away a lot of the stress."

    Source

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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.

    Source

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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.

    Source

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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.

    photo

    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.

    Source

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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 Women Vets

     

    “I’ll guarantee to you is that everybody, whether they want to admit it or not, they’re a heartbeat away of being homeless,” says Kendel Scaffe, a former U.S. Marine, as she makes her way to a bus stop.

    Although she uses a cane to walk, Scaffe’s steps are sure, determined, and measured. She has donned her dark blue Marine ballcap, emblazoned with “WOMAN VETERAN” stitched across the crown in gold letters.

    Scaffe is one of about 10,000 female military Veterans who call San Antonio “home.” Only, she didn’t have one. For years.

    “Bad things happen to good people,” she remarks. “You have the pride that you’re a Marine, whether you’re on the streets, or in a house. You’re a Marine. You can handle it,” she adds.

    While Scaffe was busy finding stability in her life, her adopted city, San Antonio, was being recognized for its efforts to help the homeless. A city publication listed the city’s high achievement:

    “In January 2015, Mayor Ivy Taylor signed on to the national Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, and on May 9, 2016, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the City of San Antonio had effectively ended Veteran homelessness.”

    Scaffe scoffs when she hears that and believes many of the homeless Veteran women are flying below the radar.

    She says she hopped from one family member’s couch to another, or slept in cars as she searched for work. The military trained her for survival. And that training, she says, keeps her and her fellow women Veterans, off the streets.

    “They (female Veterans) think they can push through it. Because women are told, ‘just push through the pain; you push through the hard times,’ and as a result when they get out they don’t have a job, or they can’t find a job because they’re experiencing mental health problems,” says Scaffe.

    Those problems include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experts say since more women serve in combat roles, they leave the service with combat trauma, in some cases coupled with sexual harassment they experienced while working alongside their male counterparts. Those scars make adjusting to civilian life much harder.

    Researcher Lily Casura has spent years studying homelessness, especially among women Veterans.

    “They start to struggle immediately, within the first six months, within the first year,” says Casura.

    “There are even ones who are struggling before they leave the military, as they anticipate they have nowhere to go,” she adds.

    Casura says being “off the streets” means female homeless Vets are being under-counted and under-served by the organizations who seek to help them.

    In Military City, USA, Casura estimates the homeless female Veteran population at more than 300, and nearly all of them are invisible.

    Katie Herrera, a social worker with the Veterans Administration, agrees.

    “I think for women, it’s obviously a scary and much more vulnerable position to be in, being out and alone. They try to do everything they can to utilize every resource they can before they actually have to be out on the streets,” said Herrera.

    We joined Herrera and some other retired servicemembers working for the Veterans Administration for the annual “Point in Time” count. Hundreds of volunteers hit the streets in San Antonio, part of a nation-wide, 24-hour period in January to seek out and identify the homeless and “count” them in their camps or on the streets.

    “The big piece is really connecting people with resources, making sure people are aware they don’t have to stay out on the street,” says Herrera.

    The VA has a Community Residential Care Program that will help place Veterans with affordable housing as well as programs to help them become more financially and emotionally stable.

    It’s a cold January night as our group comes upon an older gentleman, going through a garbage can near the gas pumps of a truck stop off Interstate-35. His grey hair is long, competing with a long, wispy beard.

    “So, you’re homeless?” Herrera politely asks.

    He stops his rummaging long enough to notice the small crowd that has gathered around him.

    He and Herrera make direct eye contact. His eyes appear to be smiling; hers appear warm and compassionate.

    “Homeless? Dang right!” he exclaims.

    “Would you mind answering a few questions for us?” asks Herrera.

    “I’ll answer anything you want,” he responds.

    This is a Point in Time contact: where information and some personal items are exchanged, the individual given an opportunity to get assistance, and a barrage of questions are asked and answered. We find out our homeless man isn’t a Veteran, but says he has plenty of respect for those who’ve served.

    He shakes hands and accepts a blanket before moving on.

    Herrera says the chances of finding a female Vet is nearly impossible during the Point in Time search.

    “I don’t want to see anyone on the street, especially not a Veteran,” she says as she lights up a dark alley with her flashlight.

    She added, “True homeless women won’t panhandle. They will find a way to eat, find shelter, have clothing. They will find it. But in the process, they don’t want anybody to know they’re a Veteran, because they feel ashamed they are in this situation.”

    Back at the bus stop, Scaffe tells us volunteers would’ve never found her.

    And even if they did, Scaffe technically does not count as homeless: That’s because the federal government has changed the official meaning over the years. Couch-surfing or staying with relatives, like Scaffe did, is not considered “homeless.”

    Scaffe says it should be for a female Veteran’s sake.

    “It’s a vicious circle and it’s very hard to break,” she said. “I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I don’t like it.”

    Scaffe has been getting help and a home through the VA’s Community Residential Care Program since 2012. She encourages all Veterans to reach out to their local VA facility.

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  • 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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  • Housing for Homeless

     

    Study explores different versions of permanent supportive housing

    Above: Dr. Ann Elizabeth Montgomery is an investigator with VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. (Photo by Joe De Sciose)

    The following is excerpted from a longer interview. To read the full interview, visit VA Research Currents. Also, visit Voices of VA Research to listen to a podcast interview with Dr. Ann Elizabeth Montgomery of VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.

    Veteran homeless has declined dramatically in recent years, thanks in large part to a variety of steps taken by VA. But the problem is by no means solved.

    VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans spearheads an array of programs aimed at further drawing down the number of Vets without housing. Dr. Ann Elizabeth Montgomery, based in Birmingham, Alabama, has been an investigator with the Center since it started in 2009.

    VA Research Currents talked with Montgomery about a study by her group that came out in early 2019 titled “Veterans’ Assignment to Single-Site Versus Scattered-Site Permanent Supportive Housing.” The conversation focused on the HUD-VASH program and the types of living situations it offers Veterans.

    The models you looked at in your study involved HUD-VASH [Housing and Urban Development–VA Supportive Housing]. Could you give us a bit of background on this program.

    HUD-VASH is the largest permanent supportive housing program in the country, and it’s intended for Veterans who have experienced homelessness and need additional support maintaining housing. It’s been around since the 1990s. There were very few vouchers then, and it’s really ramped up since about 2008.

    What HUD-VASH does is provide Housing Choice vouchers—what we used to call Section 8 vouchers. There are now probably around 90,000 to 95,000 HUD-VASH vouchers funded throughout the country, among many more general Housing Choice vouchers that HUD provides. And VA provides supportive services, case management, and health care. That’s how it becomes permanent supportive housing.

    The voucher is permanent, and Veterans can take it and look for private-market rental apartments, or what we call “scattered-site apartments,” in the community. The Veterans have to pay only a third of their income toward rent. The voucher pays the rest.

    There are also what we call “project-based programs,” where the vouchers stay with the housing unit. So there could be a building that has multiple units, and Veterans can choose to move into one of those units. When a Veteran moves out, the unit becomes vacant, the voucher opens again, and another Veteran can move in.

    HUD-VASH and other programs like it are very effective. Studies have found that about 85% of people who move into these permanent supportive programs are able to maintain their housing for a year or more.

    It’s also important to note that HUD-VASH takes the Housing First approach. That means if Veterans have substance use or mental health issues or other disabling conditions, they are not required to “fix” those issues before they move into housing. They don’t have to be housing-ready. The underlying philosophy is that once someone gets into housing, that’s a stable platform from which they can live a healthier life, fuller life, and they can address their goals.

    Your team reviewed the existing literature on single-site (or project-based) housing versus scattered-site. What emerged as the top pros and cons of these two approaches?

    One of the big advantages to single-site housing is that if you have a case manager who is working with, say, 30 people, and they’re spread throughout a large city, that takes a lot of time, because there’s a big focus on having home-based visits. In the single-site model, the Veterans end up having more one-to-one interaction with service providers. Also, there may be less social isolation because you’re living in a building with others who may have similar interests just by virtue of their being fellow Veterans.

    On the other hand, some research has found that single-site can be isolating because the Veteran may not feel part of the mainstream community. These programs are supposed to be just like other types of permanent supportive housing, just as if the Veterans were in scattered-site units in the community, but in this model, they are grouped together. It shouldn’t feel like an institution. But there definitely are more staff present than there would be in your own apartment.

    What have you learned about the social bonding that goes on among Veterans living at the same single site?

    There are some Veterans who really want to be with other Veterans. They feel like they have an important common understanding. For some people, that’s really a positive aspect of these single-site programs. Staff gave us examples about how Veterans would take care of each other. The younger Veterans help out the older Veterans. Particularly in these mission-driven single-site programs that are created specifically for Veterans, that’s the message they’re getting: “We’re here for you. We’re here together.”

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  • Salute to Vets

     

    FLINT, Mich. -- Roughly one in every ten homeless people is a Veteran, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Army Veteran Edward Dorsette is part of that alarming statistic.

    "I was homeless at a shelter in Detroit and I've never seen such a horrible place in my life. They had roaches. They had mice," Dorsette said.

    Thanks to a friend, Dorsette learned about the nonprofit Vets Returning Home in Roseville, Michigan.

    He's been there for more than year now -- currently recovering from a hip surgery and preparing for another one.

    Vets Returning Home has a commercial kitchen and 43 beds.

    In just five years, since its opening, more than 1,400 Veterans have transitioned into independence.

    Founder Sandy Bower says the program doesn't take any government funding. It runs 100% off donations.

    Bowers says the facility provides structure which is something many Veterans need after leaving the military.

    "Uncle Sam told them everything to do, right down to their colored socks and then four years later, we're done. They don't know what they're supposed to do," said Bower.

    Marine Corps Veteran David Brown served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He's another Veteran benefiting from the resources at Vets Returning Home.

    He came back from overseas with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

    "I most definitely did, very severely. I couldn't sleep at night and would randomly get mad," Brown said.

    Brown is using the center to slowly transition back to civilian life. He's already found a job.

    Another resource is the VA.

    This option is better suited for those suffering from alcohol or substance abuse.

    "That poses a big barrier for them," says Carly Huffman who's a homeless program coordinator at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw.

    Huffman wants Veterans to know about HUD-VASH.

    HUD-VASH allows Veterans to put 30% of their incomes toward housing while a federally funded Section 8 voucher covers the rest.

    "Any Veteran that is experiencing homelessness or is imminently at risk of becoming homeless would qualify for that voucher," Huffman said.

    These are two very different programs with the same exact goal in mind -- helping our Veterans when they return home.

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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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  • Forcing Homeless Vets

     

    For six years, dozens of homeless Veterans have recovered from trauma in nine cottages along a winding residential road in Echo Park. The Billets — military jargon for civilian quarters — has been a model.

    The 72-bed program places as much as 70% of its chronically homeless Veterans — male and female — in permanent housing, according to Volunteers of America, which operates the program. It’s based in a tranquil, leafy and gentrifying neighborhood of families and young professionals a short walk from a doughnut shop, a grocery store and multiple bus lines.

    But on Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is closing the Billets for good.

    Volunteers of America officials said the VA gave no real reason for the decision, and Nikki T. Baker, department spokeswoman at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, declined a request to interview Director Ann Brown or another administrator.

    “We’re perplexed,” said Karl Calhoun, Volunteers of America director of Veteran and recovery services.

    Baker told The Times that the program was ending because there were better applicants for the grant of $1 million a year. She said she could not release the list of applicants or the chosen recipient until June.

    “Other applicants were better able to meet VA’s funding criteria, which is designed to ensure resources are utilized in the most efficient manner possible,” Baker said in a statement.

    Volunteers of America has slowly been moving Billets residents into other housing, including the 500-bed shelter in Bell. But those facilities are unlikely to match the benefits of the Echo Park program, participants said.

    Jeff Petrie, 51, a Navy Veteran and former museum fundraiser, said he got a part-time job in the neighborhood and had begun volunteering at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

    “Here, you have one roommate and we’re all bonded because we’re all military,” said Petrie, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, largely from his experiences being a gay serviceman when it was forbidden. “To be on a beautiful campus has given me a take-off platform so much higher” than the three-hots-and-a-cot shelter in Atlanta that he once called home.

    The Billets has used a harm-reduction model for its services; some clients actively struggle with drug or alcohol problems. Volunteers of America’s Calhoun said that because the program is comprehensive — offering intensive case management and help finding housing or applying for benefits — it has been especially effective with Veterans who had “hits and misses” with past services.

    “It’s a one-stop shop. They can get all their needs met,” said Taneisha Antoine, clinical program manager at the Billets.

    Over the years, neighbors of the Billets have complained of carousing, drug paraphernalia, profanity and a glut of parked cars — all as Echo Park has been transitioning from a bohemian enclave into a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar real estate.

    But an executive at Gateways Hospital, the program’s landlord, said Volunteers of America had worked things out with neighboring residents. The hospital was trying to extend the Billets lease when the VA pulled out with no explanation, Chief Operating Officer Phil Wong said.

    Reginald Pippin said that he spent two years in a Veterans program in Hollywood after finishing film school but that his “issues weren’t deeply addressed” until he arrived at the Billets.

    “It’s a good area; it’s easy to walk about,” said the 37-year-old Iraq war Veteran, who took up art through a therapy class. “I find myself drawn to museums. I’m learning how to shade.”

    Petrie said the shady courtyard of the Billets and the beauty of the surrounding neighborhood, which includes Elysian and Echo parks and views of the downtown skyline and Hollywood sign, were healing. On Friday, he moved into a 10-foot-by-6-foot cubicle in a dorm-style shelter at PATH homeless services agency. The building is in an East Hollywood neighborhood packed with homeless camps.

    “I know it’s weird for a 51-year old Naval Academy graduate to say, but it’s a scary day. I understand there are Veterans here, but I haven’t met any yet,” Petrie said. “I knew I had it good. Now I really know I had it good.”

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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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  • Vet Homeless End

     

    ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Leaders across the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County came together Monday for one common goal-- a call to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2019.

    The new collaborative effort between Mayor Lyda Krewson, County Executive Steve Stenger and the St. Louis Area Regional Commission on Homelessness plans to help Veterans by Veterans Day.

    In 2018, it was estimated there are more than 2,000 homeless people living in St. Louis and about 300 of those Veterans.

    The numbers of local homeless Veteran have gone down in the area since 2016. Numbers in 2018 show 152 homeless Vets in St. Louis.

    "There are cities around the country that have the strategy of buying bus tickets and telling folks to leave or they make laws that are so inhospitable that they force people out of their city," said Tim Huffman of the St. Louis Area Regional Commission on Homelessness.

    Huffman added, "..these are not real solutions to real people's problems and they don't ultimately work for anyone in the long run."

    With this unified commitment, leaders hope to make sure homelessness is rare, beginning with Vets. So far, three states and 66 communities across the country implemented have the efforts.

    In Kansas City, dozens of tiny homes are being built for Veterans.

    News 4 searched and found out the VA previously outlined a goal to end homelessness by 2015.

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  • Stand Down 001

     

    BULLHEAD CITY — Pat Farrell has achieved a major step toward his goal of putting himself out of business.

    Farrell is president of the Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council, which put on the Tri-State Veterans Stand Down on Friday and Saturday.

    He said this is the last year for the event, which started in 2013 as a sort of triage system to connect area Veterans — particularly homeless Veterans — with services they urgently need.

    Farrell said Friday that he was glad to see lower attendance at this year’s Stand Down, because it means that more Veterans are getting their issues resolved.

    The 51 booths in and near the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce building offered information on a variety of services, ranging from housing to legal aid and job skills training.

    Nearby, Bullhead Community Park had an area in which homeless Veterans could help themselves to clothing, sleeping mats, toiletries and other items.

    Services available on the spot, along with hot meals, included assistance filing Veterans benefits claims, processing of forms for replacement DD-214 forms and quick health screenings.

    Farrell said he was especially glad to have hepatitis C testing at the event again.

    “Last year, three people found out they had hep C,” he said. “And they got immediate treatment.”

    Navy Veteran Mike Collins needed a DD-214. He said the Stand Down’s key benefit is having all the services a Veteran may seek in one spot.

    “If you need to have things cleared up or you need to have things straightened out, this is the way to do it,” Collins said.

    Dale Quinn of Vietnam Veterans of America, Mohave County Chapter 975, said that’s the goal of the vendors.

    “Anything a Vet needs, we help them if we can,” he said. “And we point them in the right direction if we can’t.”

    Dusty Harr drove to the Stand Down from Washington state, with his service dog, Zed, in tow. Harr, an Air Guard Veteran, sought assistance with job training and was referred by a Veterans center in Washington.

    “It’s nice having everything here in one spot,” he said. “Not having to drive from one city to another to get help.”

    The Stand Down is going away, but the mission isn’t. Farrell said the JAVC plans to replace it with four annual resource fairs, one each in Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Parker.

    Farrell said the fairs will be smaller events focused as usual on helping Veterans with their needs, but especially helping them get off the street.

    “I don’t want to see any (of the) Vets homeless in this county that doesn’t want to be homeless,” he said.

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  • MANA House

     

    Rex Neighbors had nowhere to go when he got out of the nursing home. He was clipped by a truck five months earlier, the big side mirror catching him in the head.

    He lost his apartment while he was laid up.

    Online at the library, Rex found the MANA House in Phoenix, a transitional living program for homeless Veterans, staffed mostly by Veterans.

    The men live like they did in the barracks, four men to each tidy room, assigned to squadrons. An adviser helps them find work and housing and apply for services and health care, difficult systems to navigate and harder if you are homeless.

    The place feels familiar and safe.

    “All of them need to be reminded that they are worth something,” said Danelle King, senior program manager and former Army medic.

    Fifty-seven men live there, the oldest 80 and the youngest 24. The average stay is six months.

    Rex arrived in November, wobbly on his feet and clutching a cane. He felt a respect and camaraderie he hadn't felt in some time.

    He had enlisted in the Navy at 21 and served eight years, mostly on medical ships deployed in the Western Pacific.

    His adviser helped gather lost paperwork — Social Security card, military discharge — and apply for services. He got Rex to a doctor, physical therapist and psychiatrist at the VA hospital. They worked out a budget and made a plan.

    It’s been three months now. Rex leaves soon for Indiana, where he grew up. He’ll work for his brother-in-law on a farm.

    He’s going home.

    The program is run by Catholic Charities, a recipient of The Republic’s Season for Sharing program. You can help by donating.

    Fill out the form on Page 4A of today’s Republic and mail it to Season for Sharing, P.O. Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250. Address it to “Don’t be a Goober.” Donate online at www.sharing.azcentral.com.

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  • Homeless 054

     

    Through innovative technology and boots-on-the-ground grit, the state ofMinnesota is currently approaching its longstanding goal of ending Veteran homelessness.

    State and federal agencies have teamed up for a unique, collaborative approach, which involved establishing the nation's first statewide homeless registry, to combat pervasive homelessness among former U.S. service members in the state, where it frequently reaches subzero temperatures in the winter. The official count of homeless Veterans now sits at just 234 for the entire state -- down 53 percent since 2010, the Star-Tribune reports.

    And they're not slowing down any time soon. “We are absolutely laser-focused on getting to zero,” said Neal Loidolt, chief executive of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV). “But we shouldn’t stop there: We should take what we are learning with Veterans and apply it to the entire homeless population.”

    The MACV has been a particularly strong force in the push to end Veteran homelessness. The group created the homeless registry, which is reportedly updated in real-time, shares its information with every county in the state, and partners with more than two dozen nonprofits. Each and every Veteran in the registry is paired with a case worker, who helps with all elements of the rehousing process, including enrolling Veterans in benefit programs and even driving them to meet with landlords.

    Volunteers for the group hit the streets weekly to speak with homeless Veterans and get them enrolled on the registry, which has reportedly helped 1,700 Veterans find homes since its inception. The case workers also try to connect each Veteran with an employment specialist, to make sure they can keep their homes once they find them.

    Marjorie Kray, who along with her Veteran husband Mark had been homeless for the last three years, spoke through tears about the impact the state's Veteran Affairs office had on their life. "It’s so overwhelming,” she said. “It’s like someone waved a magic wand and turned our lives upside down.”

    Robert Kleen, a 60-year-old former U.S. Army officer, nearly faced death on the streets after being stabbed with a butcher knife and surviving a fire when the tent he was living in burned down. Last month, he moved in to a studio apartment after being connected with a social worker who got him approved for a housing voucher, and finding him a landlord who would accept it.

    “For the first time in years, I can hold my head high and not live in fear — just knowing where I’m going to be from now on," he said.

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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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  • Racine tiny homes

     

    In the heart of Racine, wedged between a blue-collar residential neighborhood and an industrial district, sits Veteran Village, a collection of 15 tiny houses just 128 square feet each.

    The tiny homes are clustered on a 1-acre lot. The rectangle-shaped bunkhouses are about the size of college dorm rooms with sloped roofs, rustic siding, windows and front stoops.

    The tiny homes are used as transitional housing for homeless Veterans under management by Racine nonprofit Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin.

    In Janesville, a local man wants to try something similar to help the homeless.

    Rich Snyder, a craftsman and stained glass artist, is best known locally for leading a multimillion-dollar revamp of the Oak Hill Cemetery chapel that at one time faced the wrecking ball.

    Snyder’s latest dream is to build a cluster of five or six 200-square-foot tiny homes on a residential lot somewhere in Janesville.

    In Racine, the Vets earn money at jobs and live rent-free in tiny homes. Their residency is paid under a privately-funded program run by Veterans Outreach.

    The houses give residents their own roofs, their own spaces and doors that lock behind them as they sleep. The village of 15 homes, along with an on-site community center where five Veterans Outreach full-time employees work, creates a feeling of security, self-worth and community for people who’ve spent time isolated in homelessness, the agency’s executive director, Jeff Gustin, said.

    The group’s aim: to help its clients build enough momentum to escape homelessness and, at some point, find permanent housing.

    “We’re trying to give them a sense of pride and ownership. That’s the big thing that we want to thrive into their future,” Gustin said.

    TheJanesville idea

    The tiny homes Snyder proposes for Janesville would serve as a small transitional housing village for the local homeless population. Snyder envisions the tiny homes as rent-free quarters where people recovering from homelessness could live while saving money for an apartment or permanent home.

    Snyder believes it would take a local nonprofit to run and manage the tiny homes as a self-sustaining program. The directors of one area nonprofit that serves homeless people plans to discuss his idea with its board this month, he said.

    Meanwhile, “about 15 people” associated with the Oak Hill Cemetery chapel project have said they’d donate labor to the project. He’s now applying for a grant that could put some of the tiny home building in the hands of local students.

    Snyder in January pitched his idea and some tiny home plans to city officials. He said he has gotten some feedback from the city.

    Under Snyder’s proposal, the homes would be prefabricated before being set on concrete slabs on a city-owned residential lot. Ideally, he said, they’d be linked to city services.

    Snyder said he has eyed two vacant lots adjacent to a residential area west of the former General Motors assembly plant. Both sites, he said, are close to a city bus stop.

    Snyder believes that with donated materials and labor it could cost about $40,000 to build five or six tiny homes. Snyder believes the total project could be less than $200,000, although he said that estimate might not include the price of land.

    This month, Snyder hopes to build a prototype tiny home with a bathroom, kitchenette and sleeping and living quarters. He’d use it to showcase the project to potential donors or volunteers.

    “I haven’t really had anybody tell me, yet, that it’s a bad idea. I feel like as soon as we had some concrete plan, we could produce them,” Snyder said.

    Tiny homes—homes typically smaller than 400 square feet—aren’t allowed in Janesville because they’re far too small to meet city residential code requirements. City rules require homes to have floor space of at least 800 square feet, and the rules allow a single one-unit or two-unit dwelling on a typical residential lot. A tiny home village would place multiple homes—each one potentially with its own electric, gas and water service—on a single lot.

    According to city rules, a proposal such as Snyder’s could be presented to the city’s plan commission as a “planned-use development.”

    Under city rules, the plan commission would have the authority to make exceptions to city housing standards for specific housing proposals.

    One city council member, Douglas Marklein, told The Gazette he has been in touch with Snyder on the proposal.

    Marklein, a professional home builder, said he lauds Snyder’s idea but said a tiny home proposal would likely face months of research by city staff and a slew of questions from city residents.

    “More power to him,” Marklein said. “I wouldn’t discourage him, but it’s a lot of questions and few answers. I think he understands that he’s got a hill to climb, but everything starts that way if it’s hard.”

    Among the largest questions, Marklein said, would be who might manage and maintain such a village.

    Safety and growth

    The Racine tiny homes at Veteran Village have electric heat and air conditioning but no running water and no bathrooms.

    Residents can use a communal garden and courtyard.

    On the lot where Veteran Village is located, Veterans Outreach retrofitted a former Teamsters union hall into a hub serving most of the residents’ daily needs. It’s where the residents shower, cook, eat and get job placement and counseling services. The center also serves as a food pantry.

    As Gustin explained, his agency’s tiny homes are spartan. They’re set up mainly as places to relax and sleep.

    “It’s a place where they feel safe. If you can imagine living totally homeless or in a shelter, it’s a huge thing when you can actually have your own space where the door locks behind you, your possessions are safe when you’re not there,” Gustin said.

    The village and its community center run as a self-contained neighborhood and social service office for the residents. Gustin said it costs about $500,000 a year to maintain and operate. It’s privately funded through grants, donations and fundraising, he said.

    Over time, he said, some people from the neighborhood next to Veterans Village have begun to pitch in and get involved with the neighborhood.

    Many residents of Veteran Village are recent military Veterans who suffer from anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. The village’s community center helps the clients—a population that can tend toward personal isolation—gel as a mini-community and self-sustaining support network.

    The village has been up and running for about a year as transitional housing, Gustin said. The village is a “dry” and drug-free community.

    Its residents face background screening for violent crimes and sex offenses, and they must follow curfew rules and submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

    Gustin said all the residents are employed, and each has a personalized program based on goals they set themselves. Veterans Outreach tries to help the residents learn to manage their finances and rebuild social, workplace and life skills.

    The program is designed to put clients on track to live independently in a year or two, Gustin said. Of the village’s first 15 residents, one formerly homeless military Vet recently transitioned out of his tiny home and into an apartment.

    The man now works nights monitoring a group home for people with disabilities. It’s a job Veterans Outreach helped him find. The man’s horizons have expanded beyond a 128-square-foot home, Gustin said.

    “People can grow. As they grow, the idea is they’ll start to outgrow a tiny home,” Gustin said.

    Patience and review

    As Marklein suggests, Snyder or anyone interested in his Janesville plan might need patience.

    Amy Connolly, development director for the city of Racine, said it took about six months of discussion between city planners and Veterans Outreach before the group’s tiny home proposal came before the plan commission and city council.

    She said it took a few months for public hearings and review, but there was little neighborhood resistance to the project. The city monitors Veterans Village for code compliance, and Connolly said there have been no problems in that area.

    During earlier discussions, Connolly said, Racine city officials worked up “creative” zoning ideas that permit a tiny homes village as a standalone entity. Ultimately, Connolly said, the city used a “rooming house” designation for zoning similar to a motel that classifies each tiny home as an individual “rooming unit.”

    “It’s an approach that would only work for this model and this situation,” she said.

    Gustin said city officials were up front with his group about one core concern.

    “Everybody’s concern was that we’d build this village, and all the sudden every slumlord in town was going to come in with a proposal to build some tiny homes,” Gustin said.

    Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag told reporters after his annual “state of the city” address Thursday that the city is considering a plan that would permit homeless people living in their cars to park and sleep overnight in a designated parking lot.

    It’s among about a dozen concepts Freitag has talked about in the months since the city launched a public-private task force on homelessness. The task force initially was formed last summer to respond to homelessness that’s rooted in the city’s downtown, officials said.

    Freitag said he’s aware of Snyder’s tiny homes idea. He said the city Community Development Authority is studying tiny homes and similar transitional housing concepts, but he said the city has “nothing tangible” in the works for such housing.

    Snyder said officials in the city’s Neighborhood Services division have suggested Snyder focus instead on constructing larger homes of 400 to 600 square feet.

    Snyder said he’s more interested in homes that are small enough to operate rent-free. He thinks many homeless people who are trying to rebuild their lives might find a tiny home easier step than a small house with rent marginally lower than market rate.

    In Racine, Veterans Village wasn’t a clean fit for a typical municipal housing project, Connolly said.

    Projects such as Veterans Village are unlikely to qualify for federal housing subsidies municipalities can offer. She said federal housing funds are designed for permanent housing projects, and transitional tiny homes “kind of flip the model” used by programs under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.(tncms-asset)8ee9084b-d996-5d92-8721-782efd4ca8cd[5](/tncms-asset)

    Snyder’s not proposing the city subsidize a Janesville tiny homes development or take on its management.

    “The plan is not for the city to run this or organize it. A private organization with experience dealing with the homeless population would be the ideal group to run and manage a tiny home village,” Snyder said. “What I’m asking the city to look at is zoning, and if there’s land the city owns, if they could help with a land donation.”

    Snyder started work on his tiny home idea last year after he’d learned about the local task force on homelessness. He realizes that his proposal would take time for the city to Vet.

    While he’s not a member of the task force, he said his idea seems to match the group’s initiatives.

    “The city says it needs new ideas of how to approach homelessness. Well, here’s an idea,” he said.

    “Something like this, you’ve got to start beyond just talking about it,” Snyder said. “Look at the weather we’ve had the last few weeks—30 degrees below zero. We’ve got homeless shelters that go over capacity in winter.

    “We need a solution now. This is a small project that could help so many.”

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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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  • End Homelessness

     

    A series of innovations inMinnesota has virtually ended homelessness among military Veterans. The state has used an individualized approach, first learning what factors contributed to the situation, be it mental health issues, substance abuse or simple economics. The state then tailors a support system to address those issues.

    It's a model that could help the general homeless population -- Veteran or not.

    "I think the approach that we've taken is really to break it down into its essential elements," Larry Herke, commissioner ofMinnesota's VA, told Dana Jacobson for "CBS This Morning Saturday."

    Nine years ago, when there were just over 1,700 homeless Vets in Minnesota, Jerke's department began to compile a registry of every Veteran living on the street in the state. Working with partners like the federal VA and numerous non-profits, they started finding homes for Vets.

    "They all had these resources but no one organization could solve the problem by themselves," Herke said. "It took the combination of all of the organizations to be able to pull together and to be able to come up with the actual solution to this problem."

    Herke has found support at the state level, includingMinnesota's new governor, Tim Walz, a fellow Veteran of the National Guard.

    "We started working with the county folks and said, 'You have 17 of these folks inSwiftCounty. What can we do to help you with that?' And then start aligning those resources," Walz said. "Then it became manageable. It became one at a time to start to place them."

    Walz said with some creative work at the federal, state and local level, part of historicFortSnelling has been converted into transitional housing for Veterans.

    "We were up there a few weeks ago, and just the sense of pride," Walz said. "And it sets right next to a light-rail line. The first stop is the VA hospital. And listening to these Veterans say, 'All these pieces came together that I can get around, I can get my healthcare, I have a place to live, now I have a job.'"

    Sam Peterson and Rochelle Washington help track down those Veterans as case managers for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, or MACV.

    "Sometimes they don't have the transportation to come find us,"Washington said. "Sometimes they don't have a phone. And the place that we know they're probably gonna be when they go to sleep at night is one of the shelters."

    "Meeting them where they're at, where they're comfortable, where they probably feel safe and, you know, as opposed to uneasy in my office kinda thing builds that trust," Peterson said.

    Teresa Marshall, a Veteran who spent 13 years in the Army, found temporary housing thanks to MACV. Her rent is offset by a federal housing voucher available to Veterans and she can stay until she's able to secure a permanent home. She said she can't imagine where she'd be if it weren't for the program.

    "I don't wanna imagine because it's almost a nightmare,"Marshall said. "I have someone to care about me now."

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  • Vacant Beds

     

    SALT LAKE CITY — The Housing Authority of Salt Lake City issued a demand letter to the local Veteran Affairs office Monday, stating that the department needed to change policies that left beds at a property built for homeless Veterans vacant for years.

    The housing authority said in their letter that the VA should replace their staff with the non-profit First Step House, an organization based in Salt Lake City that specializes in addiction recovery.

    In the letter, the housing authority said the high vacancy at Valor House caused extreme cuts in funding for the facility:

    “The mix of regulatory barriers to tenancy put in place by the local VA caused this property to average over 30% vacancy for the past several years—a total of approximately 11,000 empty bed nights at a time when many Veterans are struggling on the street or in substandard living conditions. This high vacancy rate led to extreme cuts in HASLC’s federal grant funding for the facility, causing a deficit of over $100,000 per year and almost $1 million to date. Until now, this loss has been covered by HASLC using funds taken from other housing programs in order to prevent the Veterans who did manage to get placed at Valor House from becoming homeless again.”

    The housing authority said local VA staff controlled all tenant screenings and selection decisions, and routinely screened out applicants.

    “For the applicants that did get housed, the local VA staff were rewarded with bonuses in pay for each Veteran quickly relocated out from the property to other types of housing, a policy that incentivized rejection of Veteran applicants stigmatized from past drug or alcohol addiction, and other conditions that could make rapid placement in other housing more difficult,” the letter said.

    The housing authority said that because of the changes it was making in the guiding documents for Valor House, it is anticipated that the property will be filled close to capacity by February 15, 2019.

    The VA Salt Lake City Health Care System sent the following statement to Fox 13:

    “VA Salt Lake City Health Care System is committed to housing homeless Veterans seeking personal growth and treatment.

    “We are currently working very closely with the Housing Authority on a resolution while always keeping our Veterans’ best interest in mind. VA Salt Lake City never turns away or denies services to homeless Veterans. However, we do make certain that Veterans are placed in the appropriate housing situation for their recovery needs.

    “Federal employees do not receive bonuses for relocating Veterans to non-supportive housing. Futhermore, they have never received bonuses for placement of Veterans, nor is there any encouragement to relocate Veterans.

    “VASLCHCS staff will continue to be actively involved with Valor House and the care provided for Veterans as we work through this complex issue.”

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  • Haven for Homeless Vets

     

    For six years, dozens of homeless Veterans have recovered from trauma in nine cottages along a winding residential road in Echo Park. The Billets — military jargon for civilian quarters — has been a model.

    The 72-bed program places as much as 70% of its chronically homeless Veterans — male and female — in permanent housing, according to Volunteers of America, which operates the program. It's based in a tranquil, leafy and gentrifying neighborhood of families and young professionals a short walk from a doughnut shop, a grocery store and multiple bus lines.

    But on Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is closing the Billets for good.

    Volunteers of America officials said the VA gave no real reason for the decision, and Nikki T. Baker, department spokeswoman at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, declined a request to interview Director Ann Brown or another administrator.

    "We're perplexed," said Karl Calhoun, Volunteers of America director of Veteran and recovery services.

    Baker told The Times that the program was ending because there were better applicants for the grant of $1 million a year. She said she could not release the list of applicants or the chosen recipient until June.

    "Other applicants were better able to meet VA's funding criteria, which is designed to ensure resources are utilized in the most efficient manner possible," Baker said in a statement.

    Volunteers of America has slowly been moving Billets residents into other housing, including the 500-bed shelter in Bell. But those facilities are unlikely to match the benefits of the Echo Park program, participants said.

    Jeff Petrie, 51, a Navy Veteran and former museum fundraiser, said he got a part-time job in the neighborhood and had begun volunteering at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

    "Here, you have one roommate and we're all bonded because we're all military," said Petrie, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, largely from his experiences being a gay serviceman when it was forbidden. "To be on a beautiful campus has given me a take-off platform so much higher" than the three-hots-and-a-cot shelter in Atlanta that he once called home.

    The Billets has used a harm-reduction model for its services; some clients actively struggle with drug or alcohol problems. Volunteers of America's Calhoun said that because the program is comprehensive — offering intensive case management and help finding housing or applying for benefits — it has been especially effective with Veterans who had "hits and misses" with past services.

    "It's a one-stop shop. They can get all their needs met," said Taneisha Antoine, clinical program manager at the Billets.

    Over the years, neighbors of the Billets have complained of carousing, drug paraphernalia, profanity and a glut of parked cars — all as Echo Park has been transitioning from a bohemian enclave into a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar real estate.

    But an executive at Gateways Hospital, the program's landlord, said Volunteers of America had worked things out with neighboring residents. The hospital was trying to extend the Billets lease when the VA pulled out with no explanation, Chief Operating Officer Phil Wong said.

    Reginald Pippin said that he spent two years in a Veterans program in Hollywood after finishing film school but that his "issues weren't deeply addressed" until he arrived at the Billets.

    "It's a good area; it's easy to walk about," said the 37-year-old Iraq war Veteran, who took up art through a therapy class. "I find myself drawn to museums. I'm learning how to shade."

    Petrie said the shady courtyard of the Billets and the beauty of the surrounding neighborhood, which includes Elysian and Echo parks and views of the downtown skyline and Hollywood sign, were healing. On Friday, he moved into a 10-foot-by-6-foot cubicle in a dorm-style shelter at PATH homeless services agency. The building is in an East Hollywood neighborhood packed with homeless camps.

    "I know it's weird for a 51-year old Naval Academy graduate to say, but it's a scary day. I understand there are Veterans here, but I haven't met any yet," Petrie said. "I knew I had it good. Now I really know I had it good."

    Source

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  • Vet Roasters

     

    Next time you invest in your weekly coffee supply, maybe consider buying it through a company that offers homeless and at-risk Veterans an employment lifeline.

    That’s the goal of Veteran Roasters, whose core mission is to hire and train Veterans for jobs in the coffee industry, through the proceeds it earns selling America’s favorite caffeinated beverage.

    “Our focus is to provide opportunities to those whose transition back after their service didn’t go as they hoped or planned,” said Veteran Roasters founder Branden Marty, a Navy Vet. “It’s a neat environment because everyone has a similar experience, so you can easily connect with people.”

    As Marty put it, Veterans Roasters isn’t giving Veterans "a hand out, we’re giving them a hand up.” The money they earn through coffee sales goes directly back into their charitable arm, Rags of Honor 1, which funds their ability to hire Veterans and help pay for their life needs like housing and child care.

    Coffee isn’t the only beverage Marty is trying to parlay into a successful small business. Veteran Roasters recently partnered with Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon to help create a new beer that they dubbed “Joe Maddon’s Try Not To Suck” German Lager.

    All of the proceeds from beer sales will go toward ending Veteran homelessness and joblessness via Rags of Honor 1 and Maddon’s Respect 90 foundation, which has multiple programs designed to aid and shine a spotlight on the overall homelessness problem.

    “We’re developing almost a family of brands around this whole mission and providing even more opportunities,” Marty said.

    Veteran Roasters is a wholesale company that mostly sells its coffee to restaurants, hotels and those throwing corporate events — and individuals can also buy the coffee directly from the company’s website. Marty said that so far the company has been able to hire five Veterans since its inception in 2017.

    It also has a direct partnership with the Chicago-based Passion House Coffee Roasters, which has been supporting Veteran Roasters’ efforts to teach down-on-their-luck Veterans about the world of coffee.

    “Branden does a great job running the company,” said Passion House owner Joshua Millman. “He is very passionate and he’s a go-getter. Branden loves so much that he’s able to give at-risk or homeless Veterans this opportunity.”

    Marty was never planning on starting a coffee company. He grew up listening to his grandfather’s stories about his time as a WWII pilot and decided that he wanted to join the military so he could also travel the world and serve his country.

    He enlisted in the Navy in 2002 as a helicopter pilot and deployed multiple times to places like the Middle East and western Pacific. After separating in 2013 as a lieutenant commander, Marty began his post-military career as an aide to a few decorated generals.

    “I got to see the world many times over,” he said. "I got to be in the room with three and four-star [generals] who were dealing with big national-security issues.”

    Later, Marty landed a job at Naval Station Great Lakes as the wounded warrior program coordinator for the Midwest region. He was eventually approached to help coordinate the Warrior Games in Chicago, which is where he met fellow Veteran and small-business owner Mark Doyle.

    Doyle was an ex-contractor who had worked in Afghanistan and recently launched Rags of Honor, a military-style apparel company separate from Veteran Roasters’ similarly named charitable arm. He gave Marty the idea to start his own coffee business with the goal of reducing Veteran homelessness and unemployment.

    “So many Veterans deal with re-integration anxiety because no one really understands them,” he said. “We’ve created a community where all these people can come for anything.”

    Millman was happy to partner with a company as singularly driven as Veteran Roasters.

    “It’s really important that when people are giving their lives and committing their livelihood to allow us to live the lives that we are, that should never be unrewarded,” he said. “That is a huge, huge mission that each of these people are dedicating their lives to. And the fact they come back and aren’t taken care of … we just need to be more helpful and mindful.”

    For Millman, coffee is more than just a way to stay awake during a long work day. It’s a way to bring people —particularly Veterans — together in a public space.

    “It’s a conduit to start conversations, to give people a spot where they can talk to each other,” Millman said. “Maybe it’s about dreaming together about potential businesses to start or even debating. All of that happens over a cup of coffee.”

    Marty recalled the “really bad-quality coffee” he was subjected to during his time in the Navy. He believes his coffee is both much better and worthy of the cause for which it is being sold.

    “We think we have pretty good coffee,” he said. “You have to have good coffee to keep customers. They’ll buy the initial bag for the charity, but we hope they stay for the quality of the coffee. If you’re buying it anyway, why not support an organization that’s giving back?”

    Source

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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.

    Source

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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 VA.gov/homeless. 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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  • Funding for Homeless

     

    HELENA, Mont. (AP) — After losing its funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a Helena transitional residence for homeless Veterans is operating on a month-to-month basis and looking for sources of revenue.

    The 12-bed Willis Cruse House has relied on VA funding for the last 16 years. However, the facility lost the grant in October 2018 without receiving an explanation, according to Montana Veterans Foundation Director Desiree Bain.

    "I was surprised when I found out there wouldn't be any funding. I didn't expect it," Bain said, adding that the facility easily passed all nine parts of the inspection process.

    Current operating costs for the home are between $10,000 and $15,000 per month. Expenses vary widely and include food, toiletries, utility bills, a mortgage and payroll. Drug and alcohol screenings also are part of the home's expenses due to the program's restrictions on residents.

    Public donations, grants, fundraisers, garage sales, and food and necessity item drives are a few ways Bain has continued to raise money for the home. She said some area businesses have even kicked in a portion of their profits to the home. Bain has done everything she can think to keep the house operating for the past five months.

    "Someone passed away and left $11,000 to the house in their will," she told the Independent Record . "That's March, if I cut costs to the bare minimum."

    Even if Willis Cruse receives the VA grant during the next funding cycle, Bain said the facility will be on its own until 2020. Until then, she is scraping together anything she can.

    Bain now is considering funding sources through Lewis and Clark County.

    "I love this place and would do anything to keep it open," she said. "Even if I have to cut my own pay and volunteer."

    This isn't the first time Willis Cruse has had funding troubles. Bain cited a previous incident when the garage caught fire and many Veterans were moved into hotel rooms. The home was not meeting the VA's required criteria at the time, but received an extension and was eventually funded.

    Meanwhile, the foundation and its former president, Michael Hampson, are being sued by a man who says they backed out of a contract to sell the facility after he spent a considerable sum to have it inspected. A complaint filed in Helena District Court says Zachary Warden paid to have the work completed after entering into a buy-sell agreement with Hampson, only to find out later that the foundation never authorized Hampson to sell the property in the first place.

    Warden is seeking damages in excess of $30,000. A trial is scheduled for January 2020.

    Hampson no longer is involved with the foundation, but is listed online as a founder.

    This all took place months before Bain stepped into the director seat. And the business behind the foundation is far separated from the Veterans who depend on it.

    "There are so few places like this," said Mark Follweiler, a U.S. Army Veteran who currently resides in Willis Cruse. "It's a place where we can feel safe and not worry about being on the streets, or where we will be tomorrow."

    Follweiler, a Missoula resident, said he stayed in the home briefly two years ago. He and his service dog, Reveille, wound up back in Willis Cruse about three months ago after running into financial struggles.

    "Every bit of my money was going toward rent," he said. "I had no opportunity to save, and I'm using this as a way to get back on my feet."

    Follweiler said things are working out for him this time around. He is a fly-fishing guide in the summer and works odd jobs in the winter to supplement his VA pension. He is saving money to buy a boat so he can guarantee a more stable line of work for himself.

    "There is no place like this in Missoula," Follweiler said. "There are a lot of people depending on this place, short or long term."

    Bain said the best thing about Willis Cruse is that residents have two years to work on their program. The program primarily aids Veterans with financial or medical struggles.

    Both Follweiler and Bain said it would be a shame if the home shut down. The beds are full year-round and Bain said there aren't any other good options for homeless Veteran men.

    "There isn't much program-wise to overcome the barriers of being homeless," Bain said. She noted that one of the only other options in Helena is God's Love homeless shelter, which also is often at capacity.

    There are many ways to donate to the Willis Cruse House. Donations can be given through the Montana Veterans Foundation website (mtvf.org/williscruse/) or via Facebook (facebook.com/WillisCruseHouse/). Additionally, Bain said many individuals simply mail checks to the home, which is located at 1112 Leslie Ave., Helena, MT 59601.

    Item donations also help alleviate some of the financial burdens, but money helps more than anything, Bain said.

    The Montana Veterans Foundation home has been serving homeless and struggling Veterans for the better part of 20 years. In that time the home has helped more than 900 Veterans successfully complete a recovery program and go on to lead productive lives.

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  • DVA Logo 38

     

    In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) community partnership efforts to combat Veteran homelessness, VA recently recognized Henry Zarrow International School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for winning the 2018 End Veteran Homelessness Challenge.

    Mark E. Morgan, director of the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a certificate of appreciation to the school on April 26 for winning the friendly elementary school competition, which collected household and personal care items for Veterans transitioning from being homeless.

    VA began the challenge in October 2018 in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Student Council Association, with plans to make it a yearly event.

    “It’s thrilling to see our nation’s youth volunteer their time for this great cause,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The generous donations collected by the students will help provide Veterans with basic household necessities as they settle into their new housing.”

    The goals of the challenge are to encourage civic engagement among school-age children and help fill critical needs of Veterans transitioning from being homeless. Six elementary schools in six states participated in the 2018 challenge. In total, participating schools collected nearly $7,000 worth of personal care items and household goods to help Veterans transition to stable housing.

    Other schools that participated in the 2018 challenge include: Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles; Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, Florida; The Main Street Academy in College Park, Georgia; P.S. 54 in New York City; and Little Cypress Intermediate School in Orange, Texas. The collection drive ended in December.

    In winning the event, Henry Zarrow International School collected more than $2,000 worth of items. Together, the six schools collected 881 toothbrushes, 746 pairs of socks, 557 containers of soap and body wash, and 428 tubes of toothpaste.

    To date, more than 65 communities and three states — Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia — have effectively ended Veteran homelessness. Nationally, homelessness among Veterans has decreased nearly 50% since 2010. Since 2010, more than 700,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless nationwide because of interventions by VA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless can contact their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or they can call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).

    Visit www.va.gov/homeless to find out how to help prevent and end homelessness among Veterans and subscribe to the online newsletter to be notified when the 2019 challenge begins.

    Source

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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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  • Veterans

     

    HOW MANY VETERANS EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS?

    On a single night in January 2018:

    • 37,878Veterans were experiencing homelessness.
    • Veterans make up approximately 9 percent of all homeless adults
    • Most homeless Veterans were without children; only 2 percent were homeless as part of a family.
    • 90.8 percent were men, while 8.5 percent (3,571 Veterans) were women.

    WHY DO VETERANS EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS?

    Veterans are not unlike civilians when it comes to homelessness. They must navigate the lack of affordable housing and economic hardship that everyone faces in addition to the challenges brought on by multiple and extended deployments. Taken together, these factors create a population that deserves–but can often struggle with–housing stability.

    Research indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras are at the greatest risk of becoming homeless but that Veterans from more recent wars and conflicts are also affected. Veterans returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq often face invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which correlate with homelessness.

    ENDING VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

    Significant progress has been made in housing our nation’s homeless Veterans. This is due, in large part, to connecting them with rapid re-housing, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, and permanent supportive housing, through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH). In 2015 alone, the SSVF program helped nearly 100,000 Veterans and about 35,000 children remain in their homes or quickly exit homelessness. Similarly, since 2008, more than 114,000 homeless Veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program. Numerous other programs have played an important role in addressing Veteran homelessness including, outreach, employment, transitional housing, and substance use treatment.

    To date, more than 66 communities and the entire states of Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia have effectively ended homelessness among Veterans.

    Despite this progress, more is needed to ensure that no Veteran is homeless. All communities need a system in place that provides every Veteran who becomes homeless with a temporary place to stay while permanent housing and any needed services are being arranged.

    Source

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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.

    Source

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  • Website Updates 002 

  • West Los Angeles VA

     

    More than three years after settling a lawsuit over the misuse of its West Los Angeles campus, VA may finally be on track to provide housing, mental health treatment and other assistance to at least 1,200 homeless and disabled Veterans on the 387-acre site. However, 490 units of housing won’t be ready next year as the settlement dictated.

    “We knew the VA would have some struggles executing this,” says Chanin Nuntavong, director of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division. “This is a drastic improvement where they were before,” he says, referring to the last site visit by representatives from The American Legion’s Washington, D.C., office in 2017.

    Nuntavong and Roscoe Butler, deputy director of VA&R, met with Meghan Flanz – the West Los Angeles VA official overseeing development of housing and healing programs for homeless Veterans – as part of a fact-finding mission Feb. 7. Michael Hjelmstad, commander of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, and Larry Van Kuran, National Executive Committeeman for the Department of California and co-chair of the Greater Los Angeles VA.

    Community-Veterans Engagement Board, also attended the briefing.

    “Our members were concerned about what was taking so long,” Nuntavong says of the visit to campus. “I wanted to meet with the leadership here and see what’s going on so I can better inform our leadership.”

    Nuntavong and Butler credit Flanz, who has only been at the West Los Angeles VA since January 2018, for the progress the agency has made in West Los Angeles. “I think they are headed in the right direction now that Meghan is here,” Nuntavong says. “She has a very good grasp of what’s required.”

    However, Flanz needs a project manager, a budget specialist and other staff to help her manage the massive project, Butler says. “I would hate to see her burn out because she’s a one-person team,” Nuntavong adds.

    Flanz provided an upbeat picture of VA’s progress, including the selection of an experienced private development group to renovate existing buildings and construct new housing for Veterans in need, part of a plan to return the West Los Angeles VA property to its original mission. Known as The West Los Angeles Veterans Collective, the development group includes the construction arm of Century Housing, Thomas Safran & Associates – which specializes in financing and managing low-income housing – and U.S. VETS, which provides housing, employment and mental health services for Veterans.

    Yet, Flanz also acknowledged VA won’t live up to its pledge to open 490 units of permanent supportive housing for women, elderly, and physically and mentally disabled Veterans by next year, a shortcoming the agency’s inspector general highlighted in report last September. That optimistic promise, part of an agreement to settle the lawsuit over illegal leases that allowed private businesses to operate everything from a hotel laundry to charter bus facility on the West Los Angeles campus, didn’t account for the comprehensive environmental review of the campus redevelopment required under federal law, she says.

    The VA Inspector General also criticized leases West Los Angeles VA signed with Brentwood School – which has its athletic facilities on the campus – and other private entities after a federal judge invalidated earlier agreements with some of the same entities. VA has until September to respond to the Inspector General’s findings – some of which the agency disputes.

    Still, Flanz understands the frustration with the pace of housing development at West Los Angeles VA. She expected to see extensive housing construction underway when she transferred from the VA’s Washington, D.C., offices to Los Angeles a little over a year ago. But once the environmental impact study and a strategic plan are completed in mid-summer, VA should be ready to move ahead.

    There are other obstacles. Flanz anticipates that some residents of the upscale Brentwood neighborhood adjacent to the West Los Angeles VA, will file a legal challenge to the traffic study even though the bulk of the future new residents of campus are homeless and don’t own cars.

    Nuntavong understands the neighbor’s concerns. “It can be scary when you see the type of community that the West Los Angeles VA is in, and know that they want to bring in those who are less fortunate,” he says. “But these Veterans have served their country. It’s our duty to take care of them, rehabilitate them and get them back into society as contributing members.”

    Vets Advocacy Inc., the nonprofit partner established to help VA under the terms of the settlement agreement, sees Flanz’s appointment and VA’s decision to hire The West Los Angeles Veterans Collective – the development group with expertise in low-income housing – as the first signs that the West Los Angeles VA homeless project may come to fruition. “After a couple of years of basically failed efforts to get started, the VA finally did two things that have at least started to turn things around,” says Gary Blasi, of Vets Advocacy Inc., and one of the attorneys who represented Veterans in the lawsuit that challenged VA’s mismanagement of the West Los Angeles campus. “I don’t think that progress is all we hoped it would be. It’s just painful how much wreckage has occurred to Veterans living on the street since this began.”

    Vets Advocacy provided VA significant help getting the project back on track. It hired the design firm of Johnson Fain to complete the draft master plan for redeveloping the campus, which had stalled under VA’s oversight, Blasi says. Then VA Secretary Robert McDonald approved the plan, which cost about $250,000, in January 2016.

    But more than three years after the settlement, VA is only providing permanent supportive housing to 54 Veterans in what’s known as Building 209. And renovation of building 209 began well before the lawsuit settlement and required an act of Congress to complete, Blasi says. “The maddening thing is, Building 209 was part of a master plan drawn up about 10 years ago – and they haven’t even gotten to putting concrete on the ground under the new master plan,” Blasi says.

    There's also no clear way of funding roads, utilities and other infrastructure, says Dan Garcia, CEO of Vets Advocacy, a Vietnam Veteran who has served as president of both the Los Angeles Planning Commission and the Los Angeles Redevelopment Commission. That’s critical to success.

    “The internal road and sidewalk network, the vehicular and pedestrian access and egress from the campus, the utilities, network data cable installations, sewage installation and connections and related infrastructure are necessary to turn the campus into an integrated Veteran community as we have envisioned,” says Garcia, whose private career includes serving as senior vice president and chief compliance and privacy officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. “Without it we could have isolated pockets of housing.”

    Meanwhile, VA says it will complete renovation of three additional buildings by the end of 2021 that will house approximately 120 Veterans. That’s possible in part because the project was planned prior to the legal settlement and the environmental impact statement has already been completed. Following that, the first new housing is planned for an area of the West Los Angeles VA campus known as MacArthur Field, which is currently used by Los Angeles area soccer leagues.

    VA’s also building a new columbarium that will provide niches for 90,000 Veterans and families. The national Veteran’s cemetery across the road from the West Los Angeles VA – where Flanz’s grandfather is buried – has long been closed to new internments, says Flanz.

    "This effort means a lot to Veterans," Nuntavong says. “It brings joy to my heart knowing Veterans and loved ones will have this."

    Nonetheless, the agency is a long way from meeting its historic obligations in Los Angeles County, which has the highest concentration of homeless Veterans in the United States. The West Los Angeles VA was built on land given to the federal government in 1888 for the express purpose of housing disabled Veterans. At its peak, the campus was home to about 4,000 Veterans, a post office, churches, theaters and a 10,000-volume library. VA quietly ended that service during the Vietnam War, effectively pushing mentally disabled Veterans to the streets. Meanwhile, the agency leased more than 100 acres of the West Los Angeles property for a dog park, charter bus storage, a private school’s athletic center, a hotel chain’s laundry and UCLA’s baseball stadium among other private endeavors. Millions of dollars in proceeds from those leases is still unaccounted for.

    A coalition including the ACLU, Public Counsel Law Center, the law firms of Arnold & Porter and Munger, Tolles & Olson, the Inner City Law Center, and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe sued on behalf of thousands of severely mentally disabled homeless Veterans in June 2011. A federal judge in California ruled VA’s leases with Brentwood School and several private businesses were illegal in August 2013. Both sides appealed and court-ordered mediation failed.

    The litigation was set to resume when then VA Secretary Robert McDonald initiated successful settlement discussions in 2015. The agreement calls for VA to provide permanent supportive housing, free legal assistance, family counseling and innovative mental health treatment. Women, older Veterans and the most severely physically or mentally disabled Veterans are supposed to get priority access to the permanent housing on the campus.

    The American Legion wants to help VA finish this difficult job. “We will continue to keep an eye on the execution of this plan,” Nuntavong says. “The bottom line is this. We believe in the VA. We need to give them more time to make things right. And we will provide them with whatever help they need to better assist our Veterans.”

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