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Local homeless veteran challenges claim that system is in place to help all of them


Mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced Saturday that efforts to end homelessness among veterans in Portland have been successful.

Michelle Obama had challenged cities to reach the point where more veterans were being housed than were becoming homeless and for no homeless veteran to stay that way for 90 days. The federal government provided financial assistance to meet that goal of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

At a Saturday press conference, Hales and Kafoury said that the partnership between the city, county and non-profit organizations that support the homeless received a letter from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness confirming that Portland successfully went 90 days without a homeless veteran, effectively ending veteran homelessness.

Outreach groups Transition Projects, A Home for Everyone and others worked with the city to personally reach out to hundreds of homeless veterans.

Portland is the first West Coast city to receive the official designation of meeting a federal goal to end veteran homelessness. But that doesn't mean there are no homeless veterans in Portland, but now with the help of federal funding, proper avenues have been established to get help to those who need it.

The regional coalition A Home For Everyone said it placed 695 veterans in permanent housing in 2015 and an additional 599 veterans received housing this year.

"If someone is a veteran and needs to get into housing there's a path for them to do that," said Michael Buonocore, the executive director of Home Forward, formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland.

Kafoury said the partnerships in Multomah County have been able to house more than 1,000 veterans in Portland thanks to funding from the federal government.

"This is what it looks like when a community comes together to get things done. We can change lives," Kafoury said . "I want to thank everyone who came to the table with resources, hard work and determination to make this happen. And I want to ask you to keep it up, because our work is far from over."

But Bill Street, a veteran who has been homeless in Portland for about 3 years, says there's no way the homeless problem has improved for vets. Street reached out to KOIN 6 News to draw attention to homeless vets still living in shelters and the struggles they face in Portland.

Street says he and several other homeless vets staying in a shelter were irate when they saw the mayor's announcement Saturday. He says staying in a shelter doesn't count as being housed and getting help is still a challenge.

"You talk to one place like the CRC through the VA, they give you one statement. You talk to one of the other organizations, they give you another statement. Talk to somebody else they give you another statement," Street said. "And it's just constantly running in circles."

Navy veteran Brian Jackson sees things differently. Jackson has battled disability since he served and two years ago, he was homeless. He spoke at the press conference as an example of the many veterans who have received help from the city.

Jackson reached out to the VA and was connected with multiple veteran service offices.

"I didn't have a place to go, ya know I was kinda lost," he said. "Now I have a place, it's stable, and there's a big difference."

Hales said these programs are working because they treat homeless veterans as individual people,not as one large problem.

"They went to each and every one of those men and women personally and said 'we know you're a vet, we want to get you off the street and into housing, let's do this.' And it worked," Hales said.

The mayor has been in the forefront of trying to find solutions to the housing and homeless issue in the city. The press conference was held at Bud Clark Commons, which offers 130 studio homes to people who have been homeless.

Achieving the White House's Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness means that:

No chronically homeless veterans or veterans are in the process of being housed in 90 days

For Veterans refusing to be housed, plan for continual outreach and a resource will be available when choose to be housed

On average, homeless Veterans are housed within 90 days of being identified

The number of veterans being housed is greater than the number becoming homeless each month. And the number of Veterans entering in transitional housing is less than the number becoming homeless each month.

Homeless veteran resources:

Veterans Administration Resource Center - 503-808-1256

211info - dial 211

Transition Projects hotline - 855-425-5544

Multnomah County Veterans Services - 503-988-8387

Multnomah County aging, disability and veteran helpline - 503-988-3646

Veteran crisis line - 800-273-8255

National homeless veteran call center - 877-424-3838

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Oregon Public Broadcasting, another news partner, contributed to this story.

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