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City makes headway getting vets off streets

  • JAMM AQUINO / FEB. 5 ,2014

    Resident manager Robert Fitzwater walks around at the Institute for Human Sservices Veterans’ House in Kalihi. The facility is a place for male homeless veterans.

  • JAMM AQUINO / FEB. 5, 2014

    Resident Guillermo Fabela spends some time outdoors at the Institute for Human Services Veterans’ House in Kalihi. The shelter provides housing for homeless veterans.

Some 747 homeless military veterans on Oahu have found housing since January 2015, but the pipeline refills at a rate of 24 new homeless veterans each month.

That leaves 221 homeless veterans on Oahu currently in need of housing, said Nate French, an improvement adviser for the New York-based nonprofit group Community Solutions, who is in town this week working with social service agencies and state and county officials to reduce the highest per capita rate of homelessness in America.

Out of the 221 current homeless veterans, 68 have been homeless a year or more, meaning they fit one of the definitions of being “chronically” homeless.

“They’re a priority,” French said.

Oahu’s homeless veterans have access to federal housing vouchers to cover their rent, but getting more veterans off the streets relies on finding more landlords to take a chance on them, he said.

“You’ve got 221 vets that need to be housed,” French said during a break Wednesday at a two-day conference organized by Catholic Charities Hawaii. “They’ve got all the subsidies they need. They just need to find the units. How do we find rental units more quickly?”

French, who is based in Los Angeles and works with other cities, said Honolulu is making impressive strides in reducing island homelessness.

The 221 known homeless veterans represent a 33 percent drop from the start of the year, when 330 veterans were homeless on Oahu, French said.

“It’s been decreasing and seems to have leveled out,” he said.

At the end of 2015, Honolulu did not meet the nationwide “Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness” because of the number of homeless veterans still in need of long-term housing 90 days after being identified.

Since then, more veterans have become homeless but French said he’s impressed with the progress he sees when he returns to Oahu every four months.

“There’s so many good things happening here,” French said. “It’s a really promising picture for Honolulu.”

Catholic Charities brought together representatives from the federal, state and county governments along with social service providers and outreach workers — a gathering that French does not see in some other cities he works with.

“That’s a dream come true in our kind of work, to have all of these people in the same room, sitting at the same table,” French said.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said that last year’s Mayors Challenge helped spur the city’s effort to reduce homelessness across the board, not just for veterans.

Much of the talk at the Catholic Charities conference focused around “How do we keep this going?” said Jun Yang, executive director of the city’s Office of Housing. “We’re talking about how to sustain this forever, not just because of the mayors’ initiative.”

Even though the one-year Mayors Challenge ended, Yang said the goal remains to get every homeless veteran identified and into long-term housing within 90 days.

“I haven’t stopped working on this,” Yang said.

Currently, French said, it takes an average of 235 days between the time a homeless veteran is identified on Oahu and ends up in long-term housing.

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  • What I find interesting is that the normal commenters seem to avoid making their usual ramblings about the homeless when you mention veteran. Here are a couple from the normals..

    dragoninwater says:
    June 6, 2016 at 5:45 pm
    Mandatory deportation via cargo ship destined for the mainland is the most economical method. Vote out any politician in the next election that keeps throwing millions of our tax dollars down the drain for not acting to deport these bums. Basic necessities like food are cheaper on the mainland. Also, I don’t want to hear about stupid laws. Cops in various cities dump bums onto skid row on a daily basis in other states and no action is ever taken against the police or government agencies. Our government needs to do the same, force them onto a cargo ship and off to the skid row towns on the mainland where they will be welcome.

    Allaha says:
    June 6, 2016 at 6:10 am
    The end of civilization as we know it is possible with the development of shantytowns. The main reason is population growth and unfit problem population has the most prolific breeders, while responsible people practice birth control. Every nook and cranny is being occupied. Without a one child only policy like they had in China and absolute immigration stop the future is a miserable life for the masses.

    Keolu says:
    June 7, 2016 at 8:47 am
    It’s also because Hawaii offers general assistance, cash welfare for singles. People in states that don’t offer this can be tempted to get a ticket to Hawaii and go from the airport to the welfare office.

  • These veteran programs are for veterans, many of whom are chronically homeless,and some who suffer from PTSD. From my experience, a good percentage of the long term chronically homeless veterans in our community trace their service back to the wars in Vietnam,Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    The systematic improvements that have occurred for veterans in helping to get them off the streets and into housing are being used to assist all homeless individuals and families. Recall the great difficulty both the State and the City had in finding vacant apartments at market rate for individuals who were homeless who qualified for their subsidy or voucher programs.

    Programs like this veteran program are helping, but the issue, again, is a lack of housing stock at virtually all levels, including work force housing and affordable housing. The question is: Do we have the political will to slay that dragon, not only this year, but in future years as well?

  • Why don’t the veterans go to the shelters? There are plenty of empty beds there.

    Veterans get federal vouchers for rent, medical if they are suffering from PTSD and/or service injuries, educational assistance, etc. Then they can get all the benefits that non-veterans get, like welfare, food stamps, food banks, disability, etc. With all that why can’t they make a go of it? If it is due to drug and/or alcohol,abuse – well, they need to work that out same as non-veterans.

    Unlike a lot of people here, I am a veteran. So, spare me the talk of their service to country, etc. I know that first hand.

  • I have worked with a friend who has been counseling vets on their benefits and getting through the many problems they have had after serving. There is usually some degree of involvement with PTSD, drugs, and alcohol, petty crime, and domestic violence. They need help– they are not going to pull themselves out of problems that are traceable directly back to their service. Some have relatives trying to help, and some have been abandoned and kicked out by their families. Catholic Charities and some religous groups have done a great job but only with small numbers. Homelessness is an issue that requires a lot of one on one help and government cannot do it– families with help, and church groups (charity should be the primary aim of every Christian Church if you follow the teachings of Christ) need to step up

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