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City Misses Today's Deadline to House Homeless Vets

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News
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Judy Chen interviewing Jerry Howell on Jan. 24 during last year's homeless count. Austin Mayor Steve Adler launched an initiative to end veteran homelessness earlier this year, but fell short of the initial Veterans Day deadline.

Earlier this year, Austin Mayor Steve Adler made a promise to get all of the city’s homeless veterans off the streets by Veterans Day.

Adler, the city and its partners say the so-called House Our Heroes program didn’t make its deadline, but they’re making inroads.

“Well, we’re not going to get all the homeless folks off the street by Veterans Day,” Adler admits. “But we’ve made pretty incredible progress.”

By the count of local non-profits partnering with the City of Austin, 82 out of roughly 200 homeless veterans have found housing with the Mayor’s initiative. The biggest hurdle, however, is Austin’s housing market. Also, convincing a landlord to waive certain income and eviction history requirements is tricky. Housing vouchers are available, but sometimes they’re hard to come by.

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Credit Joy Diaz/KUT News
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Mayor Steve Adler (far right) poses with formerly homeless veteran Robert Hill holding his son Jordan (1), his wife Tenisha holding their son Isaiah (2 weeks), Bill Evans and state Sen. Kirk Watson (far left) on Aug. 27.

  So, the city’s been collecting a pot of money to, in some cases, subsidize rent for homeless veterans. It’s called the “risk fund.” Adler says there’s about $300,000 in that fund, but the coffers don’t refill themselves. The idea is to subsidize housing for as long as it might take someone to find a job or get healthy. Adler says one veteran with a job found himself living out of car with his family.

“By putting them in a home where he could focus on his job and his wife could focus on the family, the thought was just in two or three months they would be out of that situation and into one that didn’t need any kind of support,” Adler says.

Adler says he hopes to meet his new goal of all homeless veterans off Austin streets by the end of this year.

That deadline is in keeping with a national push to end veteran homelessness sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development called the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Adler – along with 680 mayors nationwide, including 10 mayors in Texas – signed the pledge. 

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