Houston Meets Challenge To House Homeless Vets

Mayor Annise Parker announced an unprecedented effort to house 100 chronically homeless military veterans in 100 days. It involves a variety of governmental and nonprofit agencies that will also help the vets with social services and job assistance.

It's estimated that there are about 10,000 homeless people in Houston, and Mayor Annise Parker says there's not a lot of magic in how you deal with the problem. And while that's easier said than done, unfortunately; it is a fairly simple equation. She says people who are homeless need homes and they need help to stay in them.

"We set out to assemble all of the different elements: the different organizations and entities across the city of Houston, who could help with this equation. I looked at what other cities around the country have done that stand out in tackling homelessness and making a difference."

Mayor Parker with Tory Gunsolley
Mayor Annise Parker with Tory Gunsolley, president and CEO, Houston Housing Authority.

She says the downside to having one of the largest veteran populations in the country is that a significant portion of the homeless population is veterans. Parker was pleased to announce that with the help of Houston's Housing Authority, Goodwill Industries and participating agencies, that 100 chronically homeless veterans were placed in housing in 100 days.

"Houston's 1 of only 3 cities that took this challenge that actually accomplished the goal. The Villas at Winkler, is currently home to 13 formerly homeless vets, four of whom were placed here during the 100 in 100 program."

The success of the pilot program resulted in the name change to Housing Houston Heroes.

Since the program started in May, 68 percent of placement through Houston's housing voucher leases went to veterans classified as chronically homeless.

Tory Gunsolley is president and CEO of the Houston Housing Authority. He says it was gratifying to be a part of the process.

"The key to making this all work was the one day briefing process. And what we would do is in one day, we have a big room, and at one end of the room you work your way through that room, and you go from the VA table to the Housing Authority table to the criminal record check. And at the last table was a group of landlords who had units and were ready to lease them up to these veterans."

Mayor Parker congratulates 4 veterans
Mayor Annise Parker congratulates four Houston veterans who qualified for city program called Housing Houston's Heroes.

 

The City of Houston has a veterans hiring preference, which is an ongoing initiative.

Vietnam veteran Alvin Gill is one of the new tenants who qualified.

"I drove a truck 33 years. Once my license was suspended, that was it. I got depressed and all, so I had to come to the VA Hospital and ask for help, and all these resources were there." 

Mayor Parker believes the collaboration of the partners involved will make it a model for other cities.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...