Evidence Of Housing Discrimination Against Veterans

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Quil Lawrence, NPR Veterans Correspondent. Photo by David Gilkey/NPR

The following audio is a report by Quil Lawrence from National Public Radio.

It had long been suspected.

There was even anecdotal evidence.

But it wasn’t until the Washington state attorney general set up a “sting” that officials had proof that landlords were discriminating against veterans using federal housing vouchers.

The HUD vouchers were part of the Department of Veterans Affairs effort to end homelessness among veterans.

But because of the high cost of housing and the unwillingness of landlords to accept vouchers, Lawrence reports that homelessness increased last year.

You can listen to his NPR report here.

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Two Men Arrested For Stealing From Homeless Veterans

Two Miami men are charged with stealing items meant for homeless veterans that were worth more than $300,000.

The volunteer, Miami director of the non-profit, Florida Veterans Foundation, Antonio Colmenares, 57, was arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on first degree grand theft. Also arrested was Colmenares’ friend, Antonio Sabatier, 60, who did not hold an official position with the organization.

The charges stem from a complaint filed by the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs in March 2015 which was investigated by the FDLE. The two men allegedly had sold 27,000 blankets and 9,700 ready-to-eat meals that were donated to the Florida Veterans Foundation for use by homeless vets.

Money from the sale, according to the FDLE, was deposited into the bank account of a company owned by Sabatier, Nike Management.

The investigation also found that other donated items meant for homeless veterans had been sold for profit. The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s Office assisted in the investigation.

Colmenares and Sabatier are out on a $20,000 bond each after being booked into the Miami-Dade Jail.

Life Is Different For Homeless Veterans In Rural Communities


Homeless veterans and other homeless people live in this encampment near the Saratoga Springs, New York train station.
Sarah Harris / American Homefront

A report from Sarah Harris for the American Homefront Project looks at how homelessness differs for veterans living in rural communities: Rather than living in the streets, they may be couch-surfacing, sleeping in their cars, or camping in the woods.

Downtown Ballston Spa, New York, is full of charming old Victorian houses. But there’s one that’s different from its neighbors: the Vet House.

Fourteen formerly homeless veterans live there. It has a comfy frat house vibe: guitars are propped up in the corners, military flags and posters hang on the walls, the kitchen is overflowing with food.

“It’s cozy,” says Dave, who moved in a couple weeks ago. “All the guys get along. We all cook, clean, look out for each other.” Continue reading

Bay Pines Stand Down for Homeless Veterans

Bay Pines VA – C.W. Bill Young Medical Center. Photo Courtesy: VA.gov

Pinellas County veterans without a place to stay or those at risk of losing their home can tap into a wide range of services and resources Saturday, April 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in the courtyard at the C.W. Bill Young Medical Center.

Along with housing and employment information, legal experts will be available for veterans with legal obligations or active misdemeanor cases. In 2016, more than 80 veterans were helped by the Stand Down Court.

In addition, veterans can get a medical screening, free meals, toiletries, haircuts and clothing items. Veterans are asked to bring a copy of their DD214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” birth certificate, social security card and two documents that can verify their mailing address. Even without documentation, veterans will be assisted.

Call 727-398-6661 extension 17829 for more details or with questions about the Stand Down.

Veterans Show Up for Pasco’s Stand Down

A Marine Corps helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, Maurice Buff, said the Veterans Treatment Court judge at the Stand Down was very fair dealing with his court costs and fines.

A Marine Corps helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, Maurice Buff, said the Veterans Treatment Court judge at the Stand Down was very fair dealing with his court costs and fines.

There’s a military tradition called a “Stand Down.” It’s when soldiers get a temporary break from combat for a shower, hot meal and peaceful night’s sleep.

Recently, Pasco County held a Stand Down for veterans in our community who are fighting a different kind of battle with homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues.

This is the fourth year One Community Now (OCN), a group of local churches, sponsored the event according to Mary Miller, a member of the OCN Stand Down Core Team and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Pasco County.

Army veteran Ira James Holt, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, gets a free haircut from a Great Clips volunteer.

Army veteran Ira James Holt, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, gets a free haircut from a Great Clips volunteer.

What started as a one-day event to connect homeless veterans has grown into three days with 500 volunteers from the community at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson.

“This is the first year we have two dental buses,” Miller said, adding that the dentists and dental hygienists were kept busy with extractions and teeth cleaning.

Portable hot showers were set up next to the concession stand where veterans could get a free haircut.

A donations tent where homeless veterans could shop for free clothing, shoes and food was set up on one ballfield next to the tent housing the temporary Pasco Veterans Treatment Court.

Pasco Circuit Judge Shawn Crane brought the Veterans Treatment Court to the Stand Down to assist veterans with pending cases.

Pasco Circuit Judge Shawn Crane brought the Veterans Treatment Court to the Stand Down to assist veterans with pending cases.

That’s where Sixth Circuit Judge Shawn Crane presided over 52 cases handling issues like overdue fines and court fees and suspended drivers’ licenses.

“Things we take for granted and probably shouldn’t, they are very important for folks homeless or veterans,” Crane said. “We have to understand and appreciate the sacrifices our veterans have made for our country and appreciate some of the things they come back with.”

Crane helped Vietnam veteran Maurice Buff with his legal problems.

“The judge was very fair to me,” Buff said.  “I figured if I got my fines and court costs taken care of I’d be able to get my license back and be able to support myself.”

He landed in Pasco county jail after a dispute with his long-time girlfriend. When he got out, all his possessions were gone and he was homeless.

“I’m a proud person, but I actually went to St. Vincent DePaul Veterans Department and they’re helping me find a home,” Buff said.

He was one of 181 homeless or at risk veterans at Pasco’s 2015 Stand Down. That’s 60 more veterans than in 2013.

Foxtrot, Echo, Delta, Charlie were the tent names for the Stand Down sleeping quarters.

Foxtrot, Echo, Delta, Charlie were the tent names for the Stand Down sleeping quarters.

Phoenix First to End Homelessness Among Veterans

Homeless_Programs[1]There are no more homeless veterans in Phoenix, AZ according to a report in the New York Times. The city has become the first to identify and find housing for its veterans who have a history of living on the street.

In 2011, by a city count, there were 222 chronically homeless veterans here, a vulnerable, hard-to-reach population of mostly middle-age men, virtually all battling some type of physical or mental ailment along with substance abuse. Federal and city officials acknowledged that was not an exact number, but it is widely regarded as the best measure of the veteran population.

Last month, the last 41 members of that group were placed in temporary housing. Shane Groen, a director at the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, one of the city’s partners in the program, said the goal was to have them all in permanent housing by Feb. 14.

The report also said that the mayor of Salt Lake City announced that all their chronically homeless veterans had been placed in homes. Both cities are using the approach of “Housing First” so their situations can be stabilized and then treatment made available for addiction or mental illness. The report also noted that the retention rate nationally is 85 percent for homeless veterans staying in their permanent housing but that rises to 94 percent in Phoenix.

You can read more about the Phoenix effort to end homelessness among veterans here and find information the VA national homelessness program here.

5 Things Successful Homeless Vets Programs Do

 

The 2010 Homeless Stand Down was held September 18, 2010 at the National Guard Armory in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. The Stand Down is an annual event designed with the Homeless Veteran in mind. Courtesy Miami VA.gov

The 2010 Homeless Stand Down was held September 18, 2010 at the National Guard Armory in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. The Stand Down is an annual event designed with the Homeless Veteran in mind. Courtesy Miami VA.gov

Florida is one of the top “hot spots” for homeless veterans making it the focus of VA officials who have the stated goal of ending veteran homelessness by December 2015. The others are Texas, California and New York.

With less than two years to accomplish that Herculean task of ending veterans homelessness, more than 60 advocates, experts and service providers met in Tampa this week to share details about programs with a record of successfully moving  veterans into permanent housing.

The most recent census estimates there are still 5,300 homeless veterans in Florida about 17 percent of the national population of almost 31,000. Women make up about 9 percent of the total veterans homeless population.

Lisa Pape, the national director of Homeless Programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, had staff at the Tampa “Rapid Results Housing Boot Camp” earlier this week.

Courtesy of VA.gov.

Courtesy of VA.gov.

“Florida is doing a good job, but they have a ways to go,” Pape said in a telephone interview from Washington D.C.

She said Florida is still working to connect all of the state, local and federal agencies that provide services to homeless veterans. But by far, the state’s largest challenge is providing affordable permanent housing.

The technique, Housing First, Pape said is the most effective program so far. The veteran is given housing and then the services are wrapped around the veteran’s needs.

The top five characteristics of a successful homeless veterans program:

  1. Partner  with every agency that has anything to do with veterans and homelessness from local, state and federal levels as well as non-governmental agencies. 
  2. Connect with the local offices of the U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Labor.
  3. Provide supportive services for the veterans like avenues to employment and mental health.
  4.   Make available, affordable permanent housing giving the veteran a place of their own.
  5. Provide services for family members of the veteran.

The Tampa boot camp offered three days of training to people already working with homeless veterans showing them more efficient and effective ways to house and provide services. Participants came from three cities in Texas as well as Miami, Sarasota, Bay Pines and Tampa.

You can listen to Lisa Pape’s interview HERE.

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