Earlier this month, I interviewed
Jeanne Marshall, the Program Coordinator for the Healthcare for
Homeless Veterans (HCHV)
program at the Fayetteville Veterans Administration Medical Center (FVAMC).
Marshall leads a team of eleven
social workers who work to connect homeless veterans with resources provided by
the VA and the local community. In addition to holding walk-in hours at the
medical center, HCHV workers go into community—to shelters, soup kitchens, and local
encampments—looking for veterans.
According to Marshall, the
priority is getting veterans off the streets and into some type housing. Medical
care, substance abuse counseling, and other services are easier to provide once
a veteran has a place to stay at night.
Several housing programs are
available to veterans. The Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affairs
Supportive Housing (HUD/VASH) program provides veterans with subsidized
permanent housing. The Grant and Per Diem program provides veterans up to eighteen
months of housing. And, the VA reserves beds for veterans at local facilities.
Despite the best efforts of the
VA and the local community, however, many veterans remain homeless. According
to the latest Point-in-Time
Count, there were 1,606 homeless people
in Cumberland County. One-hundred-fifty-two were veterans, and 113 were living
in places like cars, parks, abandoned buildings, or the street.
And the number of homeless
veterans may rise in the future.
“I personally expected more
homeless OEF/OIF veterans,” said Marshall. “I expect we’ll see more as we draw
down our forces.”
In contrast, the Fayetteville area has only 371 beds for the homeless, and only a few are reserved for veterans. The Fayetteville HCHV program has served 751 people so far this year. At the time of the interview, Marshall had issued 134 out of the available 135 HUD/VASH vouchers.
“We could easily fill two to three times the number of vouchers,” said Marshall.
The VA continues in its efforts. Currently, there is a request out for bids from community programs to provide emergency shelter for veterans. In the meantime, Marshall and her team continue their work.
“We’re doing the best that we can with what we’ve got,” said Marshall.
Veterans can call trained counselors at the National
Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline: 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838).
Posted by Galo V. Centenera on Tue. July 31, 2012 4:56 PM