- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - One year after 51 homeless veterans were given free housing for up to a year, the program has offered a glimpse into the challenges and successes of the “rapid rehousing” model that’s aimed at ending homelessness.

The pilot program was managed by a local nonprofit but funded with federal housing dollars running through St. Louis’ human services department, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1DJ0r3i ) reported.

The premise of the “rapid rehousing” model was to help get homeless people into homes and address their needs from there. The program included participants who were considered chronically homeless, and officials hoped the veterans gain additional skills in helping them stay off the streets.

Case manager Gywanna Montague of the $530,000 program said the biggest challenge was gaining the veterans’ trust.

Fourteen of the participants are living independently in their own apartments, and many of them have jobs. Twenty-three have transferred to a housing voucher program, while five others have moved out of town. Three qualified for other housing assistance, four died and two others were put in nursing homes.

“They came with hurts, habits and hang-ups,” Montague said.

Gateway 180, the nonprofit organization that provided case management for the program, provided life skills classes that helped teach veterans basic financial planning, among other topics. It also transported many of the vets to interviews, with some landing jobs with the city of St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs department.

Rick Hussey, 59, said he was pleased he was no longer living out of his pickup. The former barber and Marine from St. John qualified for disability assistance while in the program.

He said he volunteers a lot of time at the VA and plans on staying in the apartment he was placed in last summer.

“I feel fortunate,” he said. “It got me out of my truck and a roof over my head. It’s up to me to try to make it the best of what it is.”

The pilot program ends July 31, but the core principles of it are expected to continue by devoting $500,000 in federal grant money to rapid rehousing, said Eddie Roth, who heads the city’s human services department.

“The ambitious and urgent action of moving people off the street into housing is precisely what we should be doing - not just as a pilot project on behalf of veterans but routinely as a regional community on behalf of a significant percentage of men, women and families who fall into homelessness and are ready to be rehoused,” he said.

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


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