Saturday, 27 June 2015 00:00

Cutting red tape to find housing for homeless veterans

Written by Roger Chesley | PilotOnline.com

It's fascinating what a little coordination - and a lot of communication - can do in battling homelessness among veterans.

That's what government officials and social service workers told me Friday, following Gov. Terry McAuliffe's announcement that 743 homeless vets in Virginia had gained housing since October. Last year, McAuliffe embarked on an audacious plan to end veteran homelessness in the commonwealth by the end of 2015.

We'll never truly reach that mark - the number of homeless people isn't static. But the effort is worth it, especially for those men and women who served in the military.

Of the total, 155 vets were housed from October through May in South Hampton Roads, said Claudia Gooch, vice president for community planning and development at The Planning Council.

The governor's pledge followed first lady Michelle Obama's launch last summer of a "Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness." The state has led meetings of stakeholders in Richmond, bringing them to the table to share best practices and to steer clear of pitfalls.

One success was breaking through the "silos" of funding and red tape that localities and agencies had erected, Carol Berg told me. She's with the state Department of Veterans Services and is the Hampton Roads regional director for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program.

For example, maybe a vet who stays in Norfolk can't find housing there, but a federal housing voucher for vets might be available in Hampton.

And this will make fiscal conservatives happy: More money hasn't been a major strategy. Breaking barriers; coordinating among federal, state and local partners; and using existing resources have played a bigger role.

I wondered, wouldn't most vets who gained housing under this initiative have gotten shelter eventually? Not necessarily, and definitely not as quickly.

The effort targets the "most vulnerable" - people who are chronically homeless, with physical and mental disabilities, and who may battle substance abuse. Berg said the idea is to first identify, assist and house them. Then offer services, including counseling and treatment.

The Planning Council and STOP Organization are among the agencies working on the ground. I traveled Friday to STOP offices in Norfolk to interview a formerly homeless vet.

DeLaine Stieff served in the Navy in the 1980s. The 53-year-old Detroit native has lived in Virginia since 1991.

The past year has been an emotional and physical trial. Stieff got divorced and moved out of the Chesapeake home she'd shared with her husband.

In early November, Stieff decided to drive back to Detroit to visit her ailing mother. But she had a serious car crash in the South Hill area. Her injuries included a punctured lung, crushed liver and trauma to her right leg. Doctors initially feared they might have to amputate.

After several weeks, she was discharged, Stieff said.

She returned to Detroit during the winter to finally see her mother. They spent several weeks together before her mother died in late March.

Stieff returned to Hampton Roads by mid-April but by then had lost her longtime job as a customer support analyst at Verizon. Meanwhile, she said, some overnight shelters wouldn't let her in because of the leg injury.

With no permanent home, she stayed where she could - in libraries during the day, and in her vehicle, on church steps and in a park at night, Stieff said, dabbing her eyes with tissues.

Finally, a veteran who worked at the United Way directed her to STOP. That's where she met Gladys Baker and Charnitta Waters, who assist homeless veterans.

They helped Stieff find a one-bedroom apartment off Little Creek Road. STOP also used a federal program that aids vets. The local agency provided help with the security deposit, rental bill and an old utility bill.

"They are angels," Stieff said of STOP.

It's the type of story that proves the value of the homeless initiative. It saves the people who safeguarded the rest of us.

Link to original article from PilonOnline.com

Read 17737 times

Latest News

  • Trump administration's voter suppression attempts ahead of midterms are not only 'morally wrong,' they're illegal +

    Trump administration's voter suppression attempts ahead of midterms are not only 'morally wrong,' they're illegal Imagine going to the polls on Election Day and discovering that your ballot could be collected and reviewed by the Read More
  • ACLU Blueprints Offer Vision to Cut US Incarceration Rate in Half by Prioritizing 'People Over Prisons' +

    ACLU Blueprints Offer Vision to Cut US Incarceration Rate in Half by Prioritizing 'People Over Prisons' ACLU Blueprints Offer Vision to Cut US Incarceration Rate in Half by Prioritizing 'People Over Prisons' Read More
  • As Florence Makes Landfall, Poorest Once More Likely to Suffer Most From Storm's Destruction +

    As Florence Makes Landfall, Poorest Once More Likely to Suffer Most From Storm's Destruction "These disasters drag into the light exactly who is already being thrown away," notes Naomi Klein Read More
  • How about some good news? Kansas Democratic Representative advances bill for Native Peoples. +

    How about some good news? Kansas Democratic Representative advances bill for Native Peoples. How about some good news? Kansas Democratic Representative advances bill for Native Peoples. Read More
  • How One Dying Man Changed The Debate About The Tax Bill +

    How One Dying Man Changed The Debate About The Tax Bill What mattered was that he showed up — that he put himself in front of the people whose opinions on Read More
  • Democrats Just Won a Major Victory in Virginia +

    Democrats Just Won a Major Victory in Virginia On a night of Democratic victories, one of the most significant wins came in Virginia, where the party held onto Read More
  • Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. +

    Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. A seismic political battle that could send shockwaves all the way to the White House was launched last week in Read More
  • Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? +

    Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? In an interview with Reuters conducted a month after he took office, Donald Trump asserted that the U.S. had “fallen Read More
  • Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy +

    Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the sweeping criminal charging policy of former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and directed Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Stop Global Warming Calls

  • 02-02-2016 Stop Global Warming
    Listen to this great call with special guests Mark Schlosberg, the National Organizing Director Food & Water Watch, Andrea Miller, the Executive Director of People Demanding Action, and Britten Cleveland, of the North Carolina Sierra Club.
  • 01-05-2016 Stop Global Warming
    This month the team welcomes author and founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, Jeremy Lent, along with Jean Su, Staff Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity to discuss the outcome of the Paris Climate Talks. Additionally, we welcomed Richard Mathews, Candidate for CA Senate District 27, Progressive Leader, and Porter Ranch Organizer; along with Henry Stern, Senior Counsel to CA State Senator Fran Pavley and Candidate For CA Senate District 27. Lastly, special guest Joel Segal, National Director, Justice Action Mobilization Network and founding member of PDAmerica introduces HR 540 for endorsement.
  • 11-03-2015 Stop Global Warming
    Listen to the November call as the team welcomes special guest RL Miller of the Climate Hawks Vote super PAC. RL discusses the cover-up of climate change by Exxon Mobil, their strategy for ratings of legislators, and partakes in an interesting Q&A. Russell Green and Ken Jones covers the POPLA petition delivery, the run up to the Paris climate talks, and some additional points of information and organizing tools for the movement.