There are roughly 1,300 homeless veterans in the state of Pennsylvania, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year.
Jerry Beck, deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs in Pennsylvania, said the Wolf administration wants to reduce this number by 550 by the end of the year.
“We hope that we can announce that we have reached functional zero, on housing of our veterans,” Beck said. “By functional zero, we mean having a process and the resources in place where we can immediately house a veteran that wants to be housed.”
Beck said the goal is realistic, with more than 800 homeless veterans in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia already placed in housing since last October.
“We know that there are enough veterans out there that if we get all of our folks together, we can easily reduce that and, in fact, we’re sure that we can get the 550 that we have set as our goal,” he said.
Most of the work is done through community organizations, such as the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, according to Beck.
He said one effective measure is “veteran’s boot camp” programs, in which several community organizations work together to achieve a certain veteran housing goal.
“With the support of many landowners and landlords that have places available,” he said, “they go out and talk to landlords and find places that they can put veterans in using the (Veterans Affairs Supported Housing) money to pay for those rents to assist the veterans.”
Beck said the problem is more complex than simply finding housing for the homeless veterans.
“Finding them homes is just the beginning of the process,” he said. “We now have to find ways to employ them, and find ways to get them to sustain themselves as they live in the community now, and be able to pay their rent.”
Beck said there are currently 939,000 veterans living throughout the state – including 250,000 in the Pittsburgh area alone.