V.A. Hopes To End Local Veteran Homelessness By 2015

Franque Thompson

OMAHA (KPTM)- Imagine having to sleep outside in the frigid cold Omaha has had lately. Around this time last year nearly 1,5000 homeless people had no choice. Several veterans were among them and it's still a problem today.

The Veterans Administration said many of the homeless will seek shelter outdoors under bridges, parking lots of shopping centers, and different areas in downtown Omaha. The VA other volunteers are conducting what's called the "Point-in-Count." One night, every January, teams will search the city to get all veterans and others that are homeless off the streets and out of the bitter cold.

"We served our country, you know? You know, it's time to take care of our vets," said Navy vet Steven Anderson, who also used to be homeless.

The care veterans want is to get off the streets and into a home, especially on cold nights when bundling up in layers isn't enough--and temperatures are below zero.

"It only takes, you know, 20 to 30 minutes for people to experience medical problems related to the cold. Frostbite, you know, hypothermia, those type of issues," said Linda Twomey of the Veterans Administration.

The VA and volunteers are teaming up to end all homelessness among vets. Wednesday's "Point-in-Count" is the first step to reach the VA's goal of endless homelessness among all veterans by 2015.

"Hoping that we can take some people off the streets that don't know about where they can get shelter or where they may be able to get some more permanent housing," said Twomey.

Once homeless vets are off the streets the next mission is to get them help.

"I have major nightmares and that's from listening to bombs drop around my head a lot when I was in the service," said Anderson.

Nightmares are what many veterans have in common. The one thing they can relate to most? Wanting the help and a home to put those nightmares to rest.

"I think enough is being done, but I think more should be done, you know? We did serve our country," said Anderson.

The VA said nearly 1,500 people were found homeless during the "Point-In-Count" last January. The number does include those who were already staying in shelters and hospitals. Of the total, 91 veterans were homeless. The VA hopes to find no more that 75 vets during Tuesday night's search.

Volunteers also have a task force searching for homeless youth. Many children and teens can be found trying to find shelter near schools and shopping centers. The VA's goal is to get those youth off the streets as well.