Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is building the first of five pilot veterans housing facilities to be sited in U.S. communities with the highest concentrations of homeless veterans, a spokeswoman for the organization told the Chicago Tribune. The St. Leo Campus in Chicago will include an outpatient clinic serving veterans, 14 apartments for physically disabled veterans, and a 141-unit studio apartment complex for struggling veterans. The apartment complex, which has already been completed, occupies a church closed by the archdiocese in 2002. On-site case managers offering job placement and other services seek to help the veterans eventually move out of the units, the article said. Catholic Charities will manage the campus and is helping to fund the project, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, administrator of the pilot program, and state and local entities.
According to the VA, about 195,000 veterans in the U.S. are homeless on any given night, reported the Grand Rapid Press. Last fall, the VA said the nation was short roughly 9,600 “transitional” beds for vets to move into on their way from living on the streets to living independently. The agency has the funds to create up to 1,800 such beds by the end of the year and is seeking another $15 million from Congress for more beds, the article said.
While homeless advocates and the VA disagree on how many veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are homeless, they do agree that their numbers will swell, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Over the past two years, the VA counted 300 homeless veterans from the two recent wars. But the VA counts only those served by affiliates of the Veterans Affairs Homeless Services Division, advocates and service providers say. Many cities lack VA housing facilities, while some homeless veterans seek aid through private programs or churches or bunk with family or friends, they say. Whatever the current number, the ranks of homeless veterans are expected to increase as the nearly 1.5 million military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to return home, VA officials said.