On any given night, thousands of homeless Veterans are living on the street or in the shelter system. According to Lee Ann Bills, Homeless Program Coordinator at the Huntington VA Medical Center, there are several risk factors that can lead to homelessness such as mental illness, physical disability, PTSD, poverty, drug and substance abuse, job loss, illness, divorce, and domestic violence. Bills says, “Homeless Veterans have the same basic needs as other adults and families. They need jobs, affordable housing, access to medical care, and sometimes they need behavioral health care.”
While addressing VA senior leadership, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki stated, “Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.” With this vision, Shinseki introduced a five-year comprehensive plan to end homelessness among Veterans, which includes preventive measures like discharge planning for incarcerated Veterans re-entering society, supportive services for low-income Veterans and their families, and a national referral center to link Veterans to local service providers. The plan also calls for expanded efforts for education, jobs, health care, and housing.
The opening of Huntington VAMC’s new Homeless Veterans Resource Center is a significant step to eliminate homelessness among Veterans in the Huntington area. The Center is located at 624 9th Street in downtown Huntington, near other important community resources. In addition, the Center’s staff will provide homeless Veterans and those at risk for homelessness with job assistance, counseling, housing referrals, educational classes, and laundry and shower facilities. The Center also houses a large donation room. The Center is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.