The Problem of Homelessness Among Montana Veterans
According to The U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, as of September 30th 2014, more than 90,000 veterans are living in Montana and some are experiencing homelessness.
That is how Thomas Morrow, a Vietnam veteran, felt after not being able to pay his rent in Boulder, Montana.
He was 100% disabled, suffering from prostate cancer.
“All of a sudden I didn’t have the resources, ” said Morrow.
According to Morrow, in 2013 the VA cut his disability benefits.
“I get excellent care one day, and a couple weeks later you’re not even a number, ” he added.
Thanks to the Montana Veterans Foundation, a non-profit organization in Helena, homeless vets like Morrow, are able to get back on their feet.
“Your income, you have to be legitimately homeless. You have to be honorably discharged or other than honorably discharged and we don’t take anyone with a criminal background, ” said Lexi Hampson, Program Manager.
Hampson said the Willis Cruse facility boards 12 and it offers classes to help veterans.
“One that focuses on vocational skills, such as life skills, financial literacy, cooking classes, computer literacy.”
However, organizations such as MVF, can’t do all the work to keep homeless veterans off the streets.
Congress is involved too.
U.S Senator Jon Tester recently introduced legislation that would re-authorize an existing program that provides funding to state and local entities to assist homeless veterans.
“Last February, I introduced a Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Authorization act. It’s got a great title, but what it does, is it really helps reintegrate homeless veterans back into a home, back into a job,” said Tester.
The program offers job training, career counseling, and housing.
In Montana, the Volunteers of America of the Northern Rockies received two-hundred thousand dollars through the program to provide critical services for vets in Helena.
“The veterans who serve this country should not be homeless, it is totally unacceptable,” added Tester.
These actions are needed, so vets like Morrow can re-build a life of their own.
“Well I don’t have as much privacy, that I would like, but it isn’t bad, said Morrow.