Hope, help for homeless vets - KOTA Territory News

Hope, help for homeless vets

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Veterans in South Dakota make up roughly 21% of the homeless population.

But that number is dropping thanks to increased local and national outreach programs.

Eight months ago, war veteran Dean Patton found himself in the same situation as nearly 67,000 veterans in the country.

"It came to a point where I had no place to go, no job, couldn't pay my rent. I had no choice but to come here, thankfully they were here, something was here," said Patton, a Vietnam War veteran, who served with the Navy.

The Veterans Outreach Center in Rapid City sees a steady flow of about 50 veterans at any given time in similar situations.

"A lot of drug and alcohol abuse, some have PTSD and a variety of things depending on what they did in the service. It's always hard to see people go through struggle," said Jack Knodell, Manager of the Veteran's wing at the Cornerstone Mission in Rapid City.

Thanks to a $9 billion dollar national initiative by the Veterans Administration, the number of homeless vets has dropped by 15,000 in the last two years.

"We're placing a lot of people into housing, into treatment. How much is this going to be permanent? I don't know but good things are happening now," said Knodell.

"I benefited in that they helped me follow up with getting my vets benefits, they gave me a job," said Patton.

This year, staff say they've placed at least 20 vets into housing.

"All gave some, some gave it all. Some came home with no legs, screwed up in the head, can't get a job. All different degrees they're messed up after fighting the wars. I think we should support them all we can," said Knodell.

While Patton contemplates his future, he hopes more vets can connect to the help they need.

"When you're in the service, you're taught to be resourceful, rely on yourself. When the tables are turned, a lot of it has to do with pride. Vets have a lot of pride," said Patton.

The Veterans Administration plans to spend $21.5 billion by 2014 on their homeless Veteran initiative. The ultimate goal is to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

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