There are not 300 homeless veterans in Augusta. That number was not given attribution, but the official count provided to the Department of Housing and Urban Development during this year’s point-in-time count is 16 for Columbia and Richmond counties.
Unofficially, the Augusta Warrior Project knows of six veterans who transit the shelters or streets. Two of the three veterans interviewed for the story have been supported by us, but apparently chose not to reveal their whole stories to the writer.
One of the homeless veterans interviewed expressed the desire to move home to another state and not be housed here. The other veteran has been verbally and physically abusive to the Veterans Administration and to our staff. We do not engage with him, unless we are on VA property and supervised. This veteran has full access to VA mental and physical care, if he chooses to receive care. This veteran is the perfect candidate for the long-term treatment facility Freedom’s Path.
The writer of the article never called us as part of the research for the article. Conspicuously missing from the article was any reference to the national program funded through the VA: Supportive Services for Veterans and Families, a massive grant that has made huge inroads in solving the problem of veteran homelessness. In Augusta, the CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority holds this grant, and the Augusta Warrior Project provides the outreach and other services.
If the writer had called us, we would have told him that in the past 18 months Augusta’s homeless veteran population has plummeted from 195 to 16 – unmatched nationwide, thanks to the Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veterans and Families grant.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing a great job with homelessness, and currently has six housing vouchers available for homeless veterans who are seeking and qualify for assistance. We also could have pointed to Habitat for Humanity, which this month is presenting a house to a veteran; and to Turn Back the Block, which in recent months has worked closely with us to get a house for another veteran.
Homelessness is a complicated problem, often exacerbated by mental illness, joblessness, credit problems, etc. The Augusta Warrior Project serves veterans holistically with all the services necessary to restore them to a full life.
The Augusta Warrior Project is working with Freedom’s Path. We need this facility for those who never will normally re-enter society. There is a need, there is the interest and there are the facilities. What should be investigated is what is taking so long to fund this essential project.
(The writer is executive director of the Augusta Warrior Project.)