6 weeks to end veteran homelessness; 211 still need permanent housing

More veterans joining initiative to help get fellow vets off streets, into homes

SAN ANTONIO – Fellow veterans are now joining the quest to house every single homeless veteran on our city's streets. Monday, Mayor Ivy Taylor told KSAT she believes with veterans' help, the city's big goal can be met soon.

"We owe it to take care of the people who put their lives on the line for this country," said Deacon Tony Grant, who is a disabled Army veteran himself.

Grant spends a lot of his time helping fellow vets who call the streets their home.

"The guys that want to be helped, I say come on get in my car, I'll take you right now to get some help," he said.

He runs a ministry at True Vision Church called Veterans Helping Veterans. Monday night the group got a special visit from Mayor Ivy Taylor, who told them about the city's initiative to get every homeless veteran into permanent housing.

"They may be a trusted source that those folks are more willing to listen to as far as where they can get help," Taylor said.

On Jan. 8, the city received $2.1 million from USAA to further that initiative. They made a lofty goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of March.

"We've been checking in regularly and my understanding us that we are on track to to reach that goal," Taylor said.

In early January, 318 homeless veterans were still on San Antonio streets. Since then, the initiative has knocked that down to 211 homeless vets. The city explains that these 211 vets have been identified and are in various stages of the permanent housing process, which includes Prospects Courtyard, emergency shelters or transitional housing. While in the process of being permanently housed, these individuals are connected to supportive services to assist them in removing barriers to transition to permanent housing.

About 34 percent of the goal has been achieved. The end goal is to end up at functional zero, which would be zero homeless veterans on the street.

It's a lofty goal to achieve in a month and a half, the mayor is confident.

"I do believe it's possible," she said.

City partners for this initiative have explained that most of those last 211 are chronically homeless, dealing with drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness.

It will help even more if veterans themselves help approach the homeless.

"It breaks a kind of barrier," explained Grant. "'Well he knows what I'm going through,' instead of hearing it from a counselor who's never been through what they've experienced. I've kind of got the edge when I'm talking to these veterans and literally will take them to go get the help they need."

Taylor says there are many ways for community members to help with this initiative. She said they can assist the organizations involved, or make financial donations to ensure homeless vets stay off the streets permanently.

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