- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Adam Moreno has a home.

It’s a studio apartment just south of downtown that he lived in for more than a week without any furniture. But for Moreno, it’s a vast improvement over what he has had.

Moreno, 50, said he had been homeless since he arrived in Wichita in 2001. He recently found an apartment and a job, with some assistance from Catholic Charities’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program.

“I’m out of the elements, and it feels good,” Moreno said. “It really does.”

Homelessness among veterans has been a nationwide issue for years. In 2009, President Obama announced a goal of ending the problem by 2015.

The number of homeless veterans in Sedgwick County increased about 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the Wichita-Sedgwick County Continuum of Care Coordination. On Jan. 30, 62 homeless veterans were counted, up from 56 last year.

The program at Catholic Charities is an attempt to reduce that number.

“We have veterans who have fought for our country or given the ultimate sacrifice of themselves for our country, and it saddens me to see that they would be homeless,” said program director Erica Davis.

“So it is our commitment to work with them and try to help them find housing.”

Moreno said he came to Wichita from his native San Antonio after his brother died in 2001.

“Everybody remembers 9/11 - I remember 9/10. My brother died on 9/10,” Moreno said. “I got rid of everything I owned and started to travel.”

He rode on Greyhound buses until he encountered trouble: It was around Oklahoma City, he thinks, that his wallet containing his savings was stolen. He did not notice the wallet was gone until he had exited the bus in Wichita.

“Except for the $12 that I had in my pocket, I was completely busted - 100 percent,” Moreno said. “I did not know anybody here in Wichita. There was a foot of snow on the ground, and I’m just in a leather jacket and jeans.”

A member of the Army from 1981 to 1984, he was eligible for homeless programs at the Robert J. Dole Regional VA Medical Center, though he said those programs were not always a perfect fit for him.

“I didn’t see hardly any positives out of the programs that the VA offered,” Moreno said. “That was the first time I actually felt homeless.”

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