INDIANAPOLIS - New statistics released this week show there are fewer homeless veterans in our country, compared to four years ago.
Federal officials say there are about 24,000 fewer homeless veterans- a 33 percent drop since 2010- with a nearly 40 percent decline in the number of veterans sleeping on the street.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro in a written statement. “In just a few years, we have made incredible progress reducing homelessness among veterans, but we have more work to do. "
“(We) should be proud of the gains made reducing Veterans’ homelessness,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, “but so long as there remains a Veteran living on our streets, we have more work to do.”
Here in Indianapolis, it’s encouraging news for officials at the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF of Indiana).
“I think the abundance of resources at all the agencies, including ours, is really helping get to the veterans sooner so they don’t become homeless and out on the street,” said Debra Des Vignes, VP of marketing and communications, HVAF of Indiana.
Antonio Easterling agrees.
A Navy veteran, Easterling is homeless and looking for a new job. But that also means finding a new suit.
“(I’m) just here, you know, regrouping (and) trying to get into a job program,” said Easterling.
“Many of our veterans are struggling to find jobs,” said Des Vignes. “Some of them are applying for the first time in years so it’s a huge deal to be able to provide them with professional attire so they can go on that interview.”
A fellow veteran helped create the program, to provide homeless vets with professional attire. Robert Walls is with a group called Frontiers International. They've been collecting and donating suits for the veterans being helped by HVAF of Indiana.
“It makes you feel great,” said Walls.
And Easterling says, for him, these kind of assistance programs are just the right fit.
“It means a whole lot to me,” said Easterling. “I’m going to feel good about myself.”
HVAF has also launched a program called "Supportive Services for Veterans Families" that seeks to prevent at-risk veterans from becoming homeless, while also working quickly finding new homes for those who have.
You can donate or learn more about HVAF of Indiana on the organization’s web site.
Hoosier Heroes is an Emmy Award-winning segment that focuses on Indiana veterans. View other Hoosier Heroes stories here.