The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says Gulfport and Biloxi are among 20 cities to have ended homelessness among veterans. MPB’s Evelina Burnett takes a closer look at what that means.
Army veteran Rodney Frelix was homeless when he entered an in-patient substance abuse and mental health treatment program at the Biloxi VA last year. After he completed the program, the VA also found him housing, which Frelix says has been crucial to his recovery.
"That hope was there," he says. "It allowed me to have that stability. It was a big difference."
Frelix is one of more than 270 homeless veterans who founding housing on the Gulf Coast last year. Eric Oleson is homeless program manager at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health System. He says the designation from HUD doesn’t mean homelessness among veterans has ended, "but we have enough resources between VA, HUD, local housing authorities and other nonprofit organizations that are focusing on housing that we can serve those veterans that are homeless.”
In fact, Oleson says one of his worries now is that this new designation might make the local community and VA leaders think homelessness is no longer an issue. That's not the case he says: circumstances change, people move in and out of the area, and there is a new generation of vets coming back from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan who may face troubles in the future.
Homelessness is going to always be with us. We’ve made some great strides and accomplished where we are at today, but there’s always going to be homeless in our society, sadly. SO it’s still something we need to be aware and we need to keep the resources moving forward.
As for veteran Rodney Frelix, he has been in the VA-supported housing for about five months and recently finished a work program at the VA. He's hoping to start a permanent job there soon.