by Morgan Montalvo
Abilene has joined a very small and honorable list, becoming the ninth U.S. community, to house its entire homeless veteran population, News Radio 1200 reports.
Thirty formerly homeless veterans and eight dependents in the city of about 120,000, home to Dyess Air Force Base, now are housed, thanks to the efforts of local non-profits and volunteers, says Mayor Anthony Williams.
"This was seven-day-a-week, 24-hour effort; this group created a dynamic list where they were able, by name, to identify the homeless in our community,"Williams tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
Finding residences for all local homeless veterans, he says, began in October as informal discussions, but quickly morphed into solid commitments from civic leaders, non-profits and volunteers, Williams says. A few days later, Williams issued a 100-day challenge to meet the goal.
And while the housing effort slightly exceeded its 100-day mark, it has added a social service component.
"There's a mental health study underway now, where we can help those who have mental illness as homeless," Williams says. "We also have ongoing conversation about a training program that will provide an opportunity for re-entrance for some, like the job market."
Williams says the area's three universities and local community college have expressed interest in helping the veterans re-train for future employment.
With the homeless veteran project quickly completed, Williams says, Abilene's civic-minded citizens are eyeing a new undertaking: finding homes for the city's remaining homeless, including about 1,400 children.
"In fact, we don't really refer to those who are homeless in our community as 'the homeless.' We consider them our neighbors and refer to them as such, and we act accordingly," says Williams.