WHEELING - The Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless held its first Veterans Outreach Event Thursday at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Heritage Port in order to reach out to homeless veterans in need and area landlords who may be able to house them.
Coalition supporters gathered at the event to offer information to veterans in need, enjoy some food and reach out to local landlords to ask them to consider providing affordable housing for homeless veterans.
"The point of what we're doing today is to bring attention to the fact that we have homeless veterans in our community and there are services that can help those folks," said Lisa Badia, executive director of the coalition. "We're also trying to put a shout out to landlords, because the only way this program is successful is with the cooperation of landlords."
Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless Programs Coordinator Jordan Harris, left, Facilities Coordinator Bill Driscoll and Rana Yahn, case manager, serve food at the coalition's Veterans Outreach Event Thursday at Heritage Port. -- Sarah Harmon
Badia said the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program provides short-term rental assistance payments if landlords agree to negotiate and keep a year's lease with a veteran and his or her family.
"Affordable housing is a very difficult commodity right now," Badia said. "That's a real challenge for us. We're looking for landlords who, in exchange for working with a really great team of case managers and a homeless person, might look to make a unit affordable."
Badia said she also wants to ask the community for its continued support for the coalition and local veterans.
"If you think about it, the words 'homeless' and 'veterans' should never be used in the same sentence," she said.
The coalition also honored one of its board members, Vietnam veteran John Looney, for dedicating 25 years of service to veterans in the area.
"The coalition understands veterans, they listen to veterans and they help them make good choices," Looney said.
According to Looney, the number of homeless veterans in the area can be difficult to track, since many homeless veterans are "couch surfing" with family and friends.
"Veterans are a very proud people and tend to under-report their issues and concerns," Looney said. "They are treated with respect here."