Homeless ranks see more vets
Nationally and on Oahu, a quarter of those lacking shelter are former military members
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On any given evening, there are 900 people on Oahu who have served in the U.S. armed forces without a place to bunk.
The Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit group, reports that nationally 25 percent of the homeless people are veterans, although vets represent only 11 percent of the adult population.
Rick Velasquez, coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs homeless veterans programs in Hawaii, confirms the 25 percent figure for Oahu.
And national and local experts note a sudden increase in the number of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some advocates say they are afraid that will mean a tsunami of homeless vets in the future because it took a decade or so for Vietnam war veterans to start showing up among the homeless.
There are four Iraqi war vets living in Oahu homeless shelters, and two in transitional housing, Velasquez says.
At Kalaeloa the nonprofit veterans group sees 180 to 190 homeless vets a day, Velasquez says.
He says the number of homeless veterans here is rising because "there are a lot more people eligible with more National Guard units called to active duty and because housing prices here have gone up."
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 25 percent of an estimated 6,000 homeless people in Hawaii are veterans seeking shelter, food, clothing and other services like job placement.
That translates to more than 900 homeless veterans on Oahu, said Rick Velasquez, coordinator for VA homeless veterans programs in Hawaii.
There are at least 180 to 190 homeless veterans daily who seek shelter at the 210-bed facility at Kalaeloa run by U.S. VETS -- a nonprofit group -- and the VA, Velasquez said.
Velasquez, who heads a team of three VA benefits counselors that deal with only homeless veterans, is beginning to see veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There are four Iraqi war veterans living in shelters for the homeless," Velasquez said, "and two in transitional housing here."
His team averaged 1,600 to 2,000 visits last fiscal year to homeless veterans on Oahu.
The Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit group, using numbers from the VA and the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005 data, reported that nationally one in four homeless people on any given night were veterans.
Velasquez said the number of homeless veterans here is rising because "there are a lot more people eligible with more National Guard units called to active duty and because housing prices here have gone up."
Velasquez said VA clinics here report about 1,000 visits annually by homeless veterans seeking substance abuse help and medical and dental treatments.
The VA also offers specialized social work services and job training programs.