“It was very gratifying to see about 75 key parties in attendance representing all the interested groups on veteran homelessness, from Habitat for Humanity, state and government agency groups, and many veteran organizations.
We were able to share with the Secretary about Ohio’s progress on veterans courts, and how so many vets who are homeless also cycle through the criminal justice system, which is actually where we can often be the first connector to health, mental health and housing services.
We look forward to the further collaborations that will come out of this gathering, and thank Congressman Stivers for his leadership in inviting the Secretary and arranging the event.”
Veterans who return from duty with less than an honorable discharge — about 15 percent — can lose out on medical services offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We, at the federal level need to figure out what we need to do to fill that gap,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington after a summit dealing with homeless vets on Tuesday.
The summit, held at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in the Near East Side, also featured Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, and Jennifer Ho, a senior adviser for Housing and Urban Development.
In 2015, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing of Ohio reported 1,183 homeless veterans in the state, approximately a 4.3 percent decrease since 2014. Franklin County, which has been wavering around the 150 mark for the past three years, saw its lowest figures in 2015, at 129.
Michelle Heritage, director of the Community Shelter Board, said her organization would need 23 additional beds to provide help to those who aren’t being served by the VA in Columbus.
“We could absolutely have the capacity to meet the needs of the non-service eligible veterans that are getting stuck,” she said.”We know how to house folks. We know how to prevent homelessness.”
Beatty said she wants to meet with Stivers, as well as Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to begin drafting legislation.
“I think we need to figure out how to direct some resources there,” Stivers said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do that, but we’ll figure it out.”