- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke is creating a task force to help fight chronic homelessness among veterans.

Berke announced the move last week and says he hopes to name members to the panel over the next few weeks. He hopes the group can meeting by June.

Burke told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/Pu38To) that he hopes to “eradicate chronic veterans’ homelessness” by the end of 2016.

The task force will be comprised of community leaders, service providers and veterans.

Before signing the order to create the panel, Burke sought input from veterans’ groups at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“What we’re doing, essentially, is much more on the side of how do we as a city pull together the resources from the nonprofit side, from the counseling side, from our housing side, and put all those into one structured sensible experience, so that we can take the chronically homeless veterans and get them the support and help they need so they’re not living in garages downtown,” Berke said.

Veterans at the discussion said they face a variety of issues when transitioning back to civilian life, including trouble adjusting to the difference in structure and trouble relating to peers.

“I remember last semester, which was my first semester… sitting in my class, and I looked around — I was the only veteran in there … and I remember having a very succinct thought, I’m the only one who’s been shot at and shot back in this room,” said Jacob Kays, a veteran of the U.S. Army infantry and secretary for the UTC Student Veterans Organization. “And that’s been a big hurdle in being able to find a way to connect with people that just don’t understand.”

Veterans also noted assistance currently available lacks structure, such as a chain of command to go through.

“I think veterans reach out, and things aren’t done to what is normally done and how things are normally operating — it all goes back down to structure — frustration sets in, and the feeling of security becomes, ‘I’m not comfortable with the situation. I’m tired of going through loopholes to go through another loophole,’” said Zachary Holcomb, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and treasurer for the UTC veterans.

Berke says he wants to assure support offered by the city to veterans who are transitioning is structured effectively.

“So, when you tell me things about it’s more comfortable talking to a veteran, that allows us to think about how we structure the support services that veterans need, to be most effective, so we don’t spin our wheels putting money into things that are going to end up going to waste,” Berke said.

___

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide