New York City turn­ing tide on home­less vets

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW YORK: Four years ago Craig Hinds was home­less. A US Navy vet who served back-to-back tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had no job and was suf­fer­ing from PTSD. His life turned around when he moved into a veter­ans-only hous­ing unit in New York City. He is one of thou­sands who have been saved from liv­ing on the streets in a US push to end home­less­ness among ex mil­i­tary. The home­less pop­u­la­tion may have soared to record highs but the city has seen a stag­ger­ing re­duc­tion in the num­ber of veter­ans who have no proper home.

Whereas more than 4,600 veter­ans were clas­si­fied as street home­less in the city four years ago, cam­paign­ers say the lat­est count was 800. Of­fi­cials say more than 1,700 home­less veter­ans have been put in per­ma­nent hous­ing since Jan­uary 1, 2014. It is a rare suc­cess story for a needy, vul­ner­a­ble seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion in Amer­ica’s big­gest city, its glitzy busi­ness cap­i­tal that wor­ships re­lent­less wealth cre­ation. A mas­sive in­jec­tion of fed­eral money, po­lit­i­cal will and the cre­ation of more af­ford­able hous­ing mean that the Big Ap­ple is on the cusp of elim­i­nat­ing home­less­ness among veter­ans.

Hinds served from 2005-2009 as a hos­pi­tal corps­man, but was emo­tion­ally ex­hausted and missed his fam­ily, so left the mil­i­tary when his mother was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. “I was pretty dev­as­tated af­ter all the things I had seen. I didn’t want to go (on de­ploy­ment) any more, I didn’t want to lose any more friends. I didn’t want to be a ca­su­alty my­self,” he said. But he had no idea how hard it would be.

One in 10 are veter­ans

His mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence did not qual­ify him to work as a med­i­cal as­sis­tant in civil­ian life. He moved from At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, to New York, think­ing it would be eas­ier to get a job. He ini­tially stayed with his grand­mother but she couldn’t deal with his is­sues, so she kicked him out. It was only af­ter he moved into a stu­dio in 2012 at the veter­ans-only build­ing run by a non-profit that he started to re­cover. Now 38 and a psy­chol­ogy ma­jor, he plans to work help­ing in­mates in pris­ons af­ter grad­u­at­ing next sum­mer. In 2009, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion drew up a plan to end vet­eran home­less­ness by the end of 2015. The White house says in Jan­uary 2014, over­all vet­eran home­less­ness was down 33 per­cent since 2010.

Fig­ures for 2015 are sched­uled to be re­leased later this month. On a sin­gle night in Jan­uary 2014, there were 49,933 home­less vets-24,837 fewer than in 2010, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral fig­ures. They ac­counted for one in 10 home­less adults. The US gov­ern­ment has since cer­ti­fied an end to vet­eran home­less­ness in cities such as New Or­leans and Hous­ton. “There’s just been a lot of mo­men­tum,” says Tori Lyon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Jeri­cho Project, which pro­vides hous­ing for those in need. Hinds lives in one of their units. The aim is to get vet­eran home­less­ness down to what Lyon calls a “func­tional zero”-not that no vet­eran ever sleeps on the street but that the re­sources are in place to house any vet that needs it.

Units so scarce

“The real bot­tom line is af­ford­able hous­ing units are so scarce,” Lyon told AFP. Av­er­age, mar­ket-rate rent for a New York stu­dio can range from $1,500 to $3,500 de­pend­ing on neigh­bor­hood. Af­ter Viet­nam, cam­paign­ers no­ticed a big wave of home­less veter­ans 10-12 years later. To­day vets can be­come home­less within one-two years. Leav­ing a struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment, suf­fer­ing from men­tal or phys­i­cal in­juries, lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions, lack of a fam­ily sup­port and sub­stance abuse are of­ten fac­tors.

Dis­abled vet­eran Glo­ria Montes, who served from 1979 to 1984, feels for sol­diers re­turn­ing from re­cent com­bat. In 2013, she was evicted and forced to sleep in a car or on friends’ floors un­til she found a place at a hous­ing unit run by non­profit Ur­ban Path­ways. “It was hard and I was only out for three-four months I can’t imag­ine that veter­ans who are home­less are years,” she said. Her stu­dio apart­ment, where she lives with her beloved dog Cache is stuffed with fam­ily pho­to­graphs, base­ball mem­o­ra­bilia and books. “If I’m here, I have a bad day, a down day, what­ever the case might be, flash­backs, got my neigh­bors and got the staff down­stairs and my fam­ily for sup­port,” she said. “If it wasn’t for th­ese peo­ple,” she said. “I don’t know how I would have made it. Really.”—AFP

NEW YORK: Dis­abled vet­eran Glo­ria Montes an­swers ques­tions in her Bronx apart­ment in New York. Montes, who was forced to sleep in a car or on friends’ floors un­til she found a place at a hous­ing unit in the Bronx in Septem­ber 2014, says she wants the mil­i­tary to do more to help veter­ans ad­just to civil­ian life, and nav­i­gate the ben­e­fits that are open to them. —AFP

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