The City of Tucson has an ambitious goal: to rid its streets of the homeless military veterans by the end of 2015. The city claims to be well on its way but others are not so sure.
“Ending Veteran Homeless in 2015 is impossible,” said Clemon Jacquet, a Vietnam era veteran who was once homeless as a result of substance and alcohol abuse.
Mr. Jacquet currently works as a peer support specialist at Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs, identifying homeless veterans in shelters and faith-based organizations in the Tucson area.
“It is relative, because a lot of homeless veterans we deal with are not from Tucson,” he said. “Some were discharged here, while others travel from state to state.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, about 31,000 veterans have returned to the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. These veterans face post-traumatic stress disorder, mental issues and disabilities.
But last year alone, there were 49,993 veterans nationwide living on the street on a given night, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Ending Veteran Homeless Initiative, a federal strategy, aims to combat homelessness among veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs the numbers have decreased by 33 percent since its launch in 2010.
So far, the project has provided 10,096 homeless veterans with housing in 25 cities, but there is still a high percentage of veterans who are in a dire need of housing and other resources. Tucson is one of the cities in the initiative working to save veterans from being homeless or who are at risk of being homeless by the end of 2015.
“The HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing is god sent for us veteran homeless,” said Robert McCarthy, a Vietnam veteran who has lived on the street for 10 years. “I am very close to receiving housing.”
The city’s mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, has said the city is just 600 units shy of completing its goal of finding homes for 1,600 homeless veterans by the end of the year, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Jodi Frederick, the homeless veteran coordinator at Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs, said they did a point in count in January, when they found 285 homeless veterans. “We know there is more than that.”
Ms. Frederick said the department currently has 651 supportive housing vouchers left for veterans, which means that it has reached 80 percent of its limit.
“We acknowledge that veterans will keep coming back from combat areas,” she said. “And as long as we are housing homeless veterans, we are being successful.”
Produced by Jasmine Aguilera