DAV Helping homeless veterans in Billings

An effort is underway to find veterans who are homeless and to get them off the streets. The Continuum of Care is a program paid for through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Each January, the program completes the point-in-time count of veterans living on the streets. The PIO for Disabled American Veterans Billings Chapter 10, Ed Saunders said, "Why January? Because, it's in the middle of the winter and the homeless tend to go into shelter and hunker down, as we would say. That aides in finding them and counting them. And as part of the count, we ask them if they are a military veteran."

Members of the DAV Billings Chapter 10 wear blue coats and their military hats to shelters. It is in hopes of finding veterans who are homeless. Jimmie Kerr, the DAV's Treasurer, who also served several years in the Navy and was an advisor in Vietnam explained, "Veterans will come and talk to us, they trust us. We are interested in trying to show them where to get their benefits, how to get help. We provide phone numbers."

Robert Scott who is an Air Force veteran and the DAV's Commander added, "It's important from the standpoint that we find out how many homeless veterans there are so that the money that eventually gets cut loose, trickles down, and goes to the right places to support those people who are essentially living off the grid. That information is passed on to HUD, they know the specific problems and where they are."

Saunders told KULR-8 that the results of the count can give an idea of the characteristics of the homeless. He said, "The United States government, and state governments, and local governments can develop programs which will aide the homeless in their respective communities."

Saunders also explained that many veterans are homeless because they are trying to adjust to civilian life after coming from war and combat. "Many veterans who have served in war have that effect the way that they live their lives, the way they interact with people. Sometimes these can get severe and they don't know what to do, where to get help. They have post-traumatic stress disorder, they have a hard time finding a job and keeping a job. And they begin to look at substance abuse as an escape," said Saunders.

If you know of a homeless veteran, you can get them in contact with a couple of different services. One is the National Homeless Veteran Call Center at 877-424-3838 or the Housing Authority of Billings at 406-245-6391.

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