More Housing Help For Homeless Veterans
The Charlotte area has received a significant boost in federal support to house homeless veterans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded an additional 50 vouchers to cover rent and supportive services for homeless veterans. These new vouchers are worth about $370,000 and are encouraging news to Carson Dean, executive director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte. "We - on a given year at the Men's Shelter - will see 250 to maybe 300 homeless veterans," says Dean. A survey done in early 2010 by the Urban Ministry Center found even more cause for concern when it comes to homeless veterans. "Over half - 53 percent - were identified as vulnerable, meaning they had at least one factor that placed them at higher risk for dying," says Caroline Chambre of the Urban Ministry Center. "That risk is by virtue of their long-time homelessness and other factors which could be health related - or behavioral health, mental health." The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has pledged to end homelessness among veterans within five years. In 2009, the Charlotte Housing Authority had just 35 rental vouchers from the VA for homeless veterans. Today it has 135. Chambre says the VA has met with local homeless shelters and service providers to make sure the most vulnerable veterans are given first priority for the housing vouchers. She says the program has saved lives: "What's great about it is it not only provides housing, which is obviously key, but it provides the support services which are essential for helping someone stay housed and manage whatever the issues are that might have caused them to lapse into homelessness and stay homeless for so long," says Chambre. Those services range from help finding a job and managing a budget to mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment.