More than 400 veterans have been found living on Central Florida’s streets or in the woods in the past month as officials and volunteers work to get every remaining homeless service member into housing by year’s end, local leaders will announce Wednesday.
Central Florida’s “Veterans Surge” — the push to count, interview and house all homeless veterans to meet a federally mandated deadline — is the first large-scale effort to house the homeless in the region’s history, and one that government leaders and veterans groups deem a success.
“As you watched some of these homeless veterans who had spent 10, 15, 20 years on the streets get into housing for the first time … they began to be transformed in front of your eyes,” said Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, which led the recent effort. “Just getting a roof over their head, getting some clothes, some food, some love and a pat on the back, they began to get better. It was amazing.”
But of 416 veterans identified, only a handful of the most vulnerable have been housed immediately. The rest will have to wait for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to comb through their paperwork and verify their service.
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