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New Welcome Home Program Helps Homeless Military Veterans

Evening Edition

Finding permanent housing for chronically homeless veterans is an ongoing challenge in San Diego, where one out of every four people on the street is a military veteran. Now a program called "Welcome Home" is helping the Department of Veterans Affairs do more than place a roof over someone's head.

"Welcome to my home," Daniel Parker said, proudly walking into a new home in the Golden Hills neighborhood.

At 55, he has struggled with being homeless on two or three occasions since leaving the Army. This one-bedroom apartment was provided through a Section 8 voucher from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"It's nice and warm in here, yeah, I like it, it's a nice place. When I came here there was nothing, but thanks to the AMVETS program I have furniture," Parker said.

"While veterans were being housed, the idea that they were shown into an empty room, all of a sudden became oh my goodness how does this happen," Charles Kissel, interim executive director with AMVETS, said.

Kissel said AMVETS, a longtime advocate for veterans, had the ability to fill the need with its donations from the public. So it partnered with the VA and HUD to provide much needed household furnishings.

The organization has three thrift stores in San Diego and two more in Fresno and Long Beach. Since the program began in late November, AMVETS has helped 24 veterans in San Diego and Long Beach where the homeless population is relatively high and expected to grow.

"So we need beds, dressers, tables, couches, lamps, rugs and appliances, especially refrigerators," Kissel said."

The goal is to eventually offer furnishings to several hundred formerly homeless vets throughout the state. Both programs support the VA's goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

"I don't know how close we're going to get to 2015, but gosh darn it, I'm going to make sure that California AMVETS is there to say that it stepped up and tried to push the ball to the goal post," Kissel said.

To schedule a donation pickup in your area call (619) 260-1391.

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