Chattanooga reaches benchmark to end veteran homelessness, but there is more work to do

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke discusses working to end veteran homelessness in the city.

In 2014, Mayor Andy Berke announced an initiave to end veteran homelessness in the City of Chattanooga. Last Month the city received a letter from three federal government agencies confirming the city has effectively ended veteran homelessness.

A lot of people worked on this including fourteen local, regional, and federal government organizations as well as many volunteers. The city hired a full time coordinator, and later added part time positions. There was also a task force.

"244 veterans, that's a whole lot of families whose lives are changed," Andy Berke said.

244 was the number of veterans housed when the announcement was made last month. The number is now 250, but there are still more homeless veterans in Chattanooga.

"Any local citizen can go out today to Miller park, if you know where to go, Chattanooga Community Kitchen and you'll find a homeless veteran," Steve Wright, executive director of the Chattanooga Regional Homeless coalition said. "Don't be misinformed that there are no homeless veterans out there because there are."

The phrase effectively ended veteran homelessness does not mean that there are no homeless veterans in the city. What it does mean is that the number is small enough that the city and their partner organizations can find housing for those people within ninety days. Right now the city knows about eighteen homeless veterans on the streets of Chattanooga, and there are a few others that the city are working to confirm their veteran status.

Michael Reno is a volunteer with Heroes Hand Up. They meet every week to feed the homeless. Michael says he believes the number of homeless veterans is higher than eighteen. He says that because of what he's seen, and what other homeless veterans have told him.

"You see two or three most every time that we go out," Mr. Reno said.

We went out with Michael, and we found three people who told us they were veterans. We talked to a man named Charles who told us he fought in Vietnam. He also told us he believes the number is higher than 18.

"We still have a huge problem of our veterans being out on the street," Mr. Reno said. "Here at Heroes Hand Up we don't want the community to think that the problem is over because it's far from over."

Mayor Berke agrees that this problem is not over.

"We know there are people out there and we know their names," Mayor Berke said. "When we house each of the people on the list now there will be some more people because we generally find there are several people who come on our list every month."

When those veterans go on the city's list they are working to house them within thirty days. If you know about a homeless veteran in the city of Chattanooga contact the mayor's office and share your information with them.

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