Hundreds of homeless vets in Louisville finding help from local - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hundreds of homeless vets in Louisville finding help from local agencies

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Eleven months after Louisville's mayor announced his "housing veterans" initiative, hundreds of vets are off the streets, but the job is far from over.

Advocates say all the vets identified as being homeless when the initiative began, have been placed in either temporary or permanent homes -- but with new people moving to Metro Louisville every day, that number continues to grow.

"In 2004, I got into a car wreck," said Michael Bailey, a homeless veteran. "I had back surgery."

That triggered a decade-long spiral for this sailor, who was in the U.S. Navy from 1989 to 1994.

"You lose your job, you lose your health insurance," Bailey said.

Bailey spent the past few years bouncing from shelter to shelter, sleeping on park benches -- even his car, but a few months ago, he got his hands on a book that changed his life: "Louisville Street Tips," published by the Coalition for the Homeless.

For those living on the streets, the book is like gold, chock-full of information about everything from mental health services and emergency shelters, to where they can find free food.

"I didn't know nothin' about homeless shelters or any of the help you can get," Bailey said.

The 45-year-old landed at St. Vincent de Paul on Jackson Street -- one of dozens of agencies in Louisville helping homeless vets find permanent housing.

"Most of the vets come beaten down, downtrodden, without hope," said Case Manager Lonnie Williams. "Everyone is geared towards housing every veteran."

Williams says he has seen a significant drop in the number of homeless veterans in the city.

"When I first got here, veterans were staying a lot longer -- maybe anywhere from a year to two years," Williams said.

That number has been slashed -- with many staying only 3-6 months. Williams says in part the focus has changed.

"Everyone's geared towards housing every veteran," Williams said. "Our focus is making sure the vets get the services they need, whether it's housing, clothing, food, whatever it may be -- really, to give them hope again."

"You have a case worker and they try to push you towards goals, and right now, I can start looking for an apartment." Bailey said.

"It's everybody's responsibility," said Williams. "It's not just St. Vincent de Paul -- it's a community. It's not just a homeless issue, it's not just a one-agency issue. I think we can all do something."

It's the community's way of giving back to veterans -- for everything they've given us.

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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