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City Sets 9-Month Plan To House All Homeless Vets

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Monday, Spokane’s mayor announced an ambitious initiative to end veteran homelessness in the city. Mayor David Condon says the city will spend the next nine months pushing to find housing for all veterans who need it. One local vet shared his own experience with SPR.

Condon, an Army vet himself, says the city is joining a new national initiative to help homeless veterans.

Condon: “But it’s interesting as I heard from the former secretary of the VA, the reality is many of our Vietnam veterans are at a point in their life of chronic illness, and lot of times those chronic illnesses bring financial difficulties.”

It’s an idea supported by President Obama, and Condon says three local organizations will help the city in this effort. One of those is Goodwill’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program, SSVF. Local man Gilbert Leon, a marine foot soldier during Vietnam, says he probably wouldn’t have the apartment he does today without SSVF.

Leon: “I was a vice president general manager of a local company, I was making between $80-90,000 a year and I was there 20.5 years. But the economy went all to heck, and this was in 2007, so I was terminated.”

He says his family’s home was foreclosed on and he hasn’t been able to find work. He says he didn’t know about any resources available to him until he needed medical care.

Leon: “And I had Agent Orange that I was working through, and matter of fact I had a valve replaced in my heart. And through the veteran’s organization they told me about this Goodwill program.”

With the help of SSVF, Leon and his wife have been able to find steady housing in apartments. He says he wishes all veterans knew about the resources available to them.

Sheila Morley at the city’s Community Development and Human Services Department says ending veteran homelessness is possible.

Morley: “Our responses need to be two things. If somebody is unsheltered we need to have the availability to get them off the street, I think that’s a human dignity issue. And then we need to be able to connect them with housing that is not temporary.”

She says if the model works, they could apply it to other homeless populations, like women or children.

Copyright 2015 Spokane Public Radio

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