• Atlanta officials work to house all homeless veterans

    By: Erica Byfield


    ATLANTA - Atlanta's mayor plans to find a home for every homeless veteran in the city by the end of 2015.
    The city is working with federal partners to cover most of the housing costs.  
    Atlanta officials estimate there are close to 700 homeless veterans in the city.  
    "Of this number, fewer than 200 are currently living on the street. The remainder - a little less than 500 - are in emergency shelters or temporary housing programs," Atlanta spokeswoman Jenna Garland said, "They are still considered homeless by federal definition... we expect to move the overwhelming majority of these individuals into permanent, supportive housing by the end of the year. Some may still be in temporary housing programs, but the majority will be permanently housed. This will be a ‘functional zero,’ which means all individuals known to us will be housed and any homeless veterans we find are being housed."
    Channel Two Action News spoke to a veteran who spent nine years without a permanent home. 
    "You have to humble yourself and say I need help," said veteran Edward Eliyah Hamner. 
    Hamner admits he struggled with substance abuse.
    He told Channel Two Investigative Reporter Erica Byfield he now uses running as an outlet.  He regularly exercises with the running group Back on My Feet.
    Hamner says he has been clean for two years.  He uses a federal voucher to pay for his housing. 
    He believes helping veterans find homes is the least Atlanta can do. 
    "Just putting them in homes in and of itself is a good thing, to say thank you. It’s an excellent way to say thank you," Hamner said. 
    Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokesperson said Atlanta leaders also hope to assist chronically homeless veterans. "These vets have been homeless for more than a year or for several periods over three years or have a disability. The City of Atlanta made tremendous progress in housing more than 700 homeless veterans, with more than 70% of these individuals being chronically homeless, in 2011-2013," Garland said. 
    She added, "Funding comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA, through its VASH voucher program (Veterans Administration Supportive Housing). Federal, state and philanthropic dollars are spread across multiple agencies, housing authorities and nonprofit groups over the Atlanta metro region."
    Byfield asked her what costs Atlanta taxpayer will pay. "The city's primary cost is for staff time. The city applies for federal funding and has increased our grant awards in the last few years, but the majority of this money goes directly to providers. There is no set cost to house a veteran - it varies because of individuals’ circumstances and need," Garland responded. 

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