Ending veteran homelessness is a goal shared by government agencies at all levels, as well as privately run organizations. And while the task isn't easy, it's something that is being pursued more aggressively these days. One organization in Missouri recently received significant funding as it works toward that goal.
Springfield, Missouri-based Home At Last – run by a local shelter known as The Kitchen – received a $491,000 grant to help reduce veteran homelessness in its area by continuing a mission it has upheld for years, according to a report from Springfield television station KOLR. The organization first assists former service members in finding a home or apartment in the area, and then helps pay the bills until they can get on their feet and find a job that gives them a little more financial independence.
"Home At Last helps pay the bills until homeless vets can get on their feet."
A big help
Those who receive aid through Home At Last say something as simple as having access to a bathroom or basic utilities like a washer and dryer can go a long way toward helping them stabilize their lives, the report said. So far the organization has helped 384 veterans and boasts a success rate of as much as 85 percent.
"Some individuals might need just one or two months of assistance to get a place to live, find a job, get back on their feet," Randy McCoy, director of housing programs at The Kitchen, told the station. "Some people might need five, six, seven months of assistance."
A bigger issue
Of course, individual efforts to reduce veteran homelessness are great, but the fact is that organizations or government agencies undertaking that battle deal with some harsh realities, according to the Sioux City Journal. For example, when it comes to determining just how many homeless veterans are living in a given area, it can be a real struggle for local officials and experts.
One recent review of the problem in Iowa found it difficult to determine just how many homeless vets were living in the state, the report said. Part of that challenge came from a lack of trained counters. Also, it's just not always easy to find everyone in the course of such a survey. U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat representing the Hawkeye State, said that while federal figures show only about 170 homeless veterans living in the state last January, he thinks the true number is higher. That's due in part to the fact that most of these counts are conducted in larger cities and exclude smaller towns and rural areas.
The good news is that significant headway has been made in getting homeless vets off the street regardless of lingering issues. While the U.S. as a whole hasn't met its goals for addressing this problem, some cities and even entire states say they have effectively ended veteran homelessness within their borders, and that's a trend that could continue for some time to come.