Homeless veterans helped off the streets of Portland

Some homeless vets get housing in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Several public agencies and nonprofits celebrated the completion of an effort to move 100 homeless veterans off the streets of Portland starting in April of 2014 and ending on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014.

They beat their goal by 39, getting stable shelter for 139 military veterans. But the job is far from done.

Stop and talk with the patrons lining up outside the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Portland, and you may meet Ginney.

"I can't get in any housing right now and I can't get anyplace safe!" she said.

Ginney said she served in the Army in Germany, spent some time in a psych ward and got kicked out of at least one Portland shelter.

"They didn't know how to deal with me. That was the problem. They didn't know how to deal with me. Um, I did tend to get a little bit upset when I didn't have a cigarette but I did not get violent," she said.

Ginney said some nice people are letting her sleep in their food cart in the downtown area right now.

David Willis is the Homeless Service Coordinator for UGM. He's met many like Ginney.

"Some of them are kinda angry. They're mad at the system. They're angry. They put their lives on the line to come back to be disrespected," Willis said.

Frederic Maxwell is a veteran who made it off the streets during a push two years ago to end homelessness. Now he has his own apartment, after living in his van for 5 years.

"And when you're used to that room---or a hospital room--and then all of a sudden I have almost 800 square feet here, it's like, wow!" said Maxwell.

Monday he took part in a ceremony at city hall honoring Income Property Management and Reach Community Development for putting homeless veterans into apartments of their own.

Also in attendance, David Greaves, Director of Mental Health Services at the Portland VA Medical Center. He knows there are complex challenges when it comes to getting veterans off the streets.

"If it was as simple as pairing a veteran with an empty apartment it would be fairly easy," he said.

He said psychological issues, drug addiction and legal issues often keep vets "out" of housing.

On top of that, Greaves said many veterans could not come up with security deposits or first month's rent. Because they have problems getting access to federal money to pay their monthly rent. Now, local governments and nonprofits step forward with that money which helps bridge the gap to federal funding.

So while the battle is far from over, it is getting better.

"Whereas the homeless issue continues to in some cases to rise among many populations, it has consistently been going down with veterans," said Greaves.


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