More Veterans Off the Streets and Into Homes
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- In 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki set a national goal to eliminate all homelessness of veterans by 2015. Mesa County has been active in making sure this goal is reached. As winter approaches this year, more veterans can say that they have a home. Paul Sweeney, the public relations officer for the VA Medical Center, said, "The community should be excited about this because it is not only a solution for our veterans, but it's a very successful solution." Programs like the housing choice voucher program have reduced the number of homeless veterans on the streets in Mesa County. "We've recently just got another 40 of these vouchers, I mean, very recently. We already have 10 of those in use so we now have 140 vouchers here in Grand Junction," Sweeney said. In addition to homes being a place to sleep every night, they can also make other huge changes in veterans' lives. Rebecca Hewett, a licensed practical nurse at the VA Medical Center, said, "It keeps them out of the bad weather. They're warmer, they're safer." Sweeney also said, "If someone is an alcoholic, if they are on the streets a lot of times it's so much easier for them to reach for a bottle, whereas if they have a home, it's not the same environment and it leads to success stories." Advocates in Grand Junction are taking national goals even further. "The national goal is getting all of our veterans off the street. But I think here in Grand Junction, as a community, our goal is getting everyone off the streets," said Sweeney. "I have one veteran who has been homeless for quite a bit of his adult life and now has a place to sleep every night and he doesn't have to worry about getting to the shelter," Hewett said. There is still more work to be done, but officials working to get veterans homes say their efforts are working, and look forward to where we will be at this time next year.