- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A pilot program aimed at helping St. Louis homeless veterans get off city streets and turn their lives around has hit some snags.

About 50 homeless veterans moved into their own apartments about two months ago through a program mainly funded by a one-year, $750,000 federal grant. Through the program, veterans could get free rent, utility assistance and other services.

But Kevin Stradford, 55, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1rAnwDz ) that his power was shut off Wednesday for unpaid bills. Program managers say five other veterans are expected to have their power switched off as well.

“They are supposed to take care of us up to a year,” Stradford said. “I’ve got no income. They are not living up to their end of the deal.”

Stratford said nonprofit Gateway 180, which is in charge of case management for the “rapid rehousing” project, told him that it doesn’t pay the bills. It submits paperwork to St. Louis, which receives federal funding for the program.

Kathleen Heinz Beach, executive director of Gateway 180, said the organization is working with a utility company to get Stratford’s power turned back on.

Beach said the program “has been a contractual nightmare” because the city is “bailing on their agreement” to pay for it.

She said communication with city officials has lagged since St. Louis’ former director of homeless services resigned in August for a job in Florida. The former director wrote a letter to the nonprofit on July 14 that said it wasn’t in charge of paying the veterans’ bills, but only with providing mental health checkups and case management.

Still, the first month of rent wasn’t paid for the veterans and landlords were getting antsy, Beach said. Gateway 180 stepped in to pay, and the city later reimbursed the organization for August and September rent.

“We were just going to do that until they had all of their internal things figured out,” Beach said.

Bill Siedhoff, who leads the city’s human services department, said all payments are being paid through Gateway 180 and disagreed with the contention that there’s been poor communication.

“That’s the way it was done the last two months, and we expect that will be the way it will continue,” he said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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