A multitude of efforts exists to help North Carolina veterans find medical care, land work or cope with family problems. But what so many need, before they can address their challenges, is some place to call home.
As reported by The News & Observer’s Martha Quillin, there are worthy agencies authorized through the Veterans Administration’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families to help veterans find that place. In areas where there is a surplus of rental space, landlords cooperate with the agencies, which provide funding for a while as their veterans look for work in the earnest efforts of most to find a way to get back on their feet and pay their own way.
Family Endeavors, a Texas-based nonprofit with offices in North Carolina, is one of the agencies that works with the VA’s blessing and grants to sometimes bring veterans literally out of the woods and into apartments.
Laressa Witt of Family Endeavors said veterans are found living outdoors, in cars and in abandoned buildings. During the last fiscal year, Witt said, her agency placed 280 veterans into housing in Cumberland County, home of Fort Bragg and to a lot of veterans.
The idea is that before homeless veterans can find work and health care, they have to have a place to stay. “It’s called ‘housing first,’” Witt said.
The VA bears the grim news: Veterans are twice as likely as others in this country to become chronically homeless. In 2014, the VA said half a U.S. million veterans were homeless at one point or another during that 12-month period.
Veterans are all ages, but most are middle-aged men like the two brothers in Cumberland County to whom Quillin talked. They helped their aging parents, but a series of bad breaks found them in the woods. But once they connected to Family Endeavors, they got an apartment they’re sharing, and they can look for work and hope for stability. An understanding landlord helped, and bus passes enable them to go to the Cumberland County library to use computers to apply for jobs.
Other veterans have had similar assistance, but likely hundreds or more in North Carolina remain in need of housing. The latest estimate is that more than 1,000 veterans are homeless in North Carolina. In the larger cities, agencies affiliated with SSVF, which has information through Veterans Administration offices, need to find more rental space.
But one step at a time, other communities in the state are trying to do what Fayetteville and Winston-Salem have done, which is to end homelessness for military veterans who want to find a way off the street.