Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Number of Homeless Veterans Declines as Veterans Day Nears, the Va Is Finishing a National Push to End Destitution Affecting Those Who Served

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Number of Homeless Veterans Declines as Veterans Day Nears, the Va Is Finishing a National Push to End Destitution Affecting Those Who Served

Article excerpt

Five years since Leslie Thompson pulled himself from on-again, off-again destitution, the 57-year-old says cracking the cycle of veteran homelessness has a simple fix.

It begins with calling a help hotline, said Mr. Thompson, who served in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps before his life slipped into uncontrolled chaos. He credits the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System with helping to rebuild his life, stabilizing him so well that he has since become a trusted adviser to his peers.

"The [homeless] cycle is easy to break. The guys just don't want to do it. The pride sets in," said Mr. Thompson of Rankin, who joined several other local veterans Monday to spotlight VA Pittsburgh's homelessness support and rehabilitation services before Veterans Day. "You've got to make the call."

Nudging veterans in need - both men and women - to contain their pride and ask for help ranks among the biggest challenges as the VA finishes a national push to end veteran homelessness. An estimated 50,000 veterans nationwide were homeless by early 2014, down about 33 percent since President Barack Obama's administration announced the effort in 2009, according to federal statistics.

Trends in Western Pennsylvania also are edging downward. A late- January survey found 214 homeless veterans in Allegheny County, down from 231 at the same time in 2014, said Mary Frances Pilarski, the VA Pittsburgh health care director for homeless veterans.

She said those figures include people in emergency transitional housing programs and longer-term assistance. The number of unsheltered veterans in those statistics fell from 19 to 9.

A VA and county estimate made within the last several weeks put the veteran homeless figure at 85 in the county, not including everyone in transitional housing programs, but numbers fluctuate day to day. Overall homeless rates and estimates can vary widely, due in part to seasonal shifts and variable accounting methods. …

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