Helping Homeless Veterans: What organizations are doing to help
Over 73,000 homeless veterans nationwide were homeless in 2009, that number fell 47 percent in 2016 according to the 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
Organizations such as Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership (CNCAP) have been working in Nebraska to reduce veteran homelessness through their Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program.
Alton Scott is a U.S. Army veteran who has been homeless since the early 1990's. He suffers from schizophrenia and is currently living at the Connection Center in North Platte. He says that from his experience there isn’t much shelter space available for veterans or for individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
"People don't give as much. The amount of shelters and shelters space and the number of homeless has increased to the point where it's kind of 'dog eat dog' and then most of the places you go are just for people to come and go to sleep," Scott said. "Everybody wants food, shelter and clothing, that's simple, simple necessities."
Kristen Yonker, a case manager for CNCAP in North Platte and a wife of a veteran, said they see more veterans seeking shelter during winter months in comparison to the warm summer months,
"I think it's a good place to stop you know, North Platte is known for being friendly and I think that's probably what you know gets them here, in between here and Denver," she said.
Kristen and Samuel Golson, another case worker with Supportive Services for Veterans and their Families, visit sites by the Platte River looking for veterans and helping them get back on their feet.
"We came out here basically looking for anybody homeless in the area," Golson said. "We found a campsite and a couple more down the river."
Looking for signs of veterans can be tricky if you don't know what you are looking for, according to Scott.
"I don't know if people can distinguish between real veterans and the people who pretend to be veterans," "The real veteran, you know what he's doing? He has a camp in the woods, he gets everything that he needs, gets a radio, he sets up his camp, he knows where he's going to go," said Scott.
Yonker said among many of the problems veterans face are a lack of support and understanding from family members and a shortage of apartments or homes that are affordable.
"We don't have a lot of housing or like one bedrooms. I see a lot more veterans that are single that need housing and you know the housing that they are providing, they are like family homes and they are turning down that single veteran because they can't go into a three–bedroom home," Yonker explained.
This is just one of many problems our homeless veterans are facing. They also face troubles getting reintegrated back into society because of things they did while dealing with mental health issues.