Government, charity groups attack problem of veteran homelessness

Posted at 6:15 PM, May 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-07 20:15:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Daniel Lynch has lived on the streets of Salt Lake City and he's been through several intervention programs, but he seems optimistic about this one.

He's home.

"After a while I rearranged, so we have a bed toward the window," Lynch says smiling at the surroundings of his dorm-sized room at the Valor House.

The Valor House provides 72 rooms like Lynch's to veterans who are homeless or in imminent danger of homelessness. It's one part of a multi-level approach the Department of Veteran Affairs has undertaken with Salt Lake City, the Road Home, Volunteers of America, and other advocates for the homeless.

"We actually have sufficient resources for the veterans we're seeing in our area at least," said Al Hernandez, Director of Homeless and Justice Programs for the V.A. in Salt Lake City.

Melanie Zamora, director of housing programs with the Road Home, said Salt Lake City has reached, or is on the cusp of reaching, what she calls "functional zero" for Salt Lake City's homeless population.

The biggest challenge is in what is called the "chronic homeless" population: those people who have become accustomed to the streets while living with some combination of poverty, joblessness, addiction, and physical and mental health problems.

Veterans make up a disproportionately large percentage of the chronically homeless population.

"Over the last 20 months we have transformed our service delivery system in order to match veterans with existing resources in our community," Zamora said.

Information about resources for homeless veterans is available through the VA Homeless Information Line: 801-582-1565 extension 6301.