St. Louis Promises Homes for Chronically Homeless Veterans

Categories: Politics

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Ed Yourdon on Flickr
An effort to end homelessness for vets by 2015 means extra resources for St. Louis.
Chronically homeless veterans in St. Louis city could find themselves with a place to live as early as tonight as part of an unprecedented federal program to end homelessness for vets by 2015.

"Until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our streets, our work remains unfinished," says Mayor Francis Slay. "Our volunteers and city staff will go to the places where homeless people live or might live, identify veterans and immediately offer them help."

The city started looking for veterans to help on Wednesday during the annual homeless census, where dozens of volunteers record the number of people on St. Louis' streets to inform public programs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs sent representatives with the census takers to match veterans with housing assistance, substance-abuse treatment, health care, transportation and food.

See also: Mokabe's Makes Helping the Homeless on Cold Winter Nights Super Easy

Non-veteran homeless won't get the same special treatment, which is funded with federal dollars.

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Bill Seidhoff
"A veteran has a real advantage in terms of addressing needs, especially housing," Bill Siedhoff, director of Human Services, tells Daily RFT. "There's more attention being paid to [homelessness in veterans] nationally."

Siedhoff says a veteran he knows from years of working with the city's homeless was matched up with the VA representatives at a church Wednesday, and "hopefully he will be in housing tonight."

The VA estimates that there are more than 60,000 homeless veterans in America.

In St. Louis, last year's census showed a decrease in the number of homeless to 1,423 people in 2013 from 1,506 in 2012. Siedhoff says he hopes this year will bring another reduction, although more homeless people are traveling from surrounding counties to St. Louis to access social services.

See also: Group Can't Serve Hot Food To Homeless Without Permit, Says STL Health Dept.

"We have such limited resources, and what we find is that the people we are serving in the city of St. Louis aren't city residents," Siedhoff says. "It's just an indication that obviously there is a growing need in surrounding counties, yet, in terms of resources, the other counties -- except St. Louis County, to some extent -- aren't really playing a part at all and really should. It would make quite a difference in our ability to end homelessness, as we want to do."

This winter has been particularly difficult for the homeless. The polar vortex brought temperatures so low and lingering that the city has already opened its emergency overflow shelter 32 times. Tuesday night, 112 people stayed at the shelter.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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22 comments
Vets4vets
Vets4vets

I have a plan that will get every vet off of the streets in less than 1 year and also put them to work. How is the best way that I can present my idea to Mayor Bill Seidhoff?

Cat Blade
Cat Blade

TMALSS? I'm getting behind in Internet-isms.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Promises promises promises. Less talk more action. This should never happen in a country as wealthy as ours. The fact that this is a problem stands as proof that Americans don't give a shit about one another.

Stephanie Peace
Stephanie Peace

Homelessness is ridiculous everywhere considering the number of empty homes and apartments across the country.

Tammy Pendino
Tammy Pendino

did you know some of the city tax monies will be going to veterans that are drug addicts and sex offenders? But that is ok..no problem, right? Have any of you heard about the Mark Twain hotel on 9th Street? TMALSS: not all veterans are worthy of a free ride!

tj9638
tj9638

And while the needs of all the homeless are growing, the downtown pseudo-yuppy residents have selfishly energized to eliminate  one downtown shelter that is meeting the needs of the less fortunate...

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

As a veteran myself, I am appalled that our government decides to help other countries BEFORE ensuring that every veteran is taken care of, and has a warm place to sleep each night. Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to never have needed a shelter, but there could come a day where I along with many others may need the help as well. Unfortunately, I am unable, financially, to help, but I do, at times, enjoy just going downtown and speaking with homeless (veterans and non-veterans alike) and actually listening to what they have to say. Sometime just having an outsider to speak to who will listen means the world to them. Call me crazy for having strange hobbies, but by the end of the conversation, 99.9% of the time, we're both smiling.

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