Veterans are a shrinking part of county's homeless population

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By Xin Wen
Ingham County Chronicle Staff Reporter

Around 6.5 percent of people living in Ingham County — 14,808 residents — have veteran status in Ingham County, according to the Census Reporter web site.

And the number of those who are homeless is quickly dropping. The total count of homeless veterans in the city of Lansing decreased from 485 to 241 during the year 2015, according to the 2015 homeless data from City of Lansing Human Relations and Community Service Department.

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to ending homelessness among veterans. There were 2,490 veterans who received VA Disability Compensation or Pension benefits during 2015 in Ingham County, according to a report.

Thompson said she was glad to see the result.

“Lansing and the state Michigan Veterans Agency have been working very hard to move the vets from the homeless shelters to their places, most likely with HUDVSH assistance,” said Brook Thompson, a veteran, the board chairperson of the Michigan Women’s Commission and the representative on the veteran subcommittee. “In the last three years there has been a statewide effort to coordinate better support activities for vets, so it is more of a ‘one stop shop’ kind of activity. I am glad to see that it appears to be working.”

Thompson said it’s hard to end the homelessness.

“The problem is multi-faceted because you have to go to solve the basic problems of the individuals that made them homeless in the first place before you can get them out of the shelters,” Thompson said. “Many, but not all, have substance abuse problems- many are self-medicating to fight depression, closed head trauma, Military sexual trauma, or PTSD issues. So to get them out of the shelters, one must use a multi-service approach to counseling, medical intervention, and life wellness strategies to get the individuals stable enough to live and hold a job on their own.”

However, not all see improvement in the situation.

Mark Karl, the founder of the Homeless Angels, a street-based outreach in Lansing, said by his count the number of homeless veterans has increased from 30 to 40 between 2014 to 2015.

“My guess is there is pressure on VA now,” Karl said. “But 241 is still too many veterans on the street. We have to do more for our veterans. Kids and veterans are the first things we should help because veterans give their life for us. But overall, homeless veterans in Lansing get better.”

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