This article was posted by KJZZ on October 13, 2020.
The future for nearly 200 homeless and at-risk veterans in Phoenix looks brighter after the City Council directed $10.5 million in federal funds to support the group.
Seven years ago, renovations wrapped up at Grand Veterans Village, a former hotel near 35th Avenue and Indian School Road that offers apartments to veterans. The Village is part of U.S. Vets, a national nonprofit that operates 20 residential sites and nine service centers in 13 cities.
“I was once sleeping behind Circle K on 32nd Street and Van Buren,” Ed Welch told the council during Tuesday’s meeting. “Someone found me, they took me to U.S. Vets, I got my life back on track, I stayed there about eight or nine months, I ended up getting a job. I found an apartment with my name for the first time in my life. Life has been exceptionally wonderful since then.”
Today, Welch is a U.S. Vets employee, reaching out to other veterans.
“I can see it when I bring them in the program, their heads held down. Two months later, they have a job, they have self-esteem, they want to come back and help others and things like that.”
Michelle Jameson, executive director for U.S. Vets Phoenix, said she learned in May that the lease would not be renewed at the group would have to leave by January.
“It’s not just me,” she said. “It’s the 180 vets that call our site home every single day.”
Phoenix says about 85% of shelter beds across Maricopa County are located in the city. Some leaders used the veterans’ situation to emphasize Phoenix’s position that homelessness is a regional issue.
Councilmember Carlos Garcia said, “… the county, the state, the governor did not show up for this organization, did not show up for unsheltered vets and we as a city are taking on that responsibility.”
Mayor Kate Gallego said, “I have personally reached out to both the state and county and encouraged them to support this important project but we cannot wait for them, we have to show leadership. We need to make sure we are investing in solutions throughout our entire community. We want our veterans to have a safe place to live.”
KJZZ reached out to Maricopa County for comment on Tuesday and received the following statement on Wednesday:
“Maricopa County is always interested in finding ways to support veterans and continues to use CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds to appropriately support local non-profits, small businesses, and community rental assistance needs. The County was never approached directly by U.S. Vets to participate in this project, but was contacted by multiple city officials who moved forward without including Maricopa County after the County offered to participate in meetings to discuss the issue.”
A specific location for a new facility has not yet been determined other than it will not be in the downtown area.
“Thank you so much for what you’ve done,” Jameson told council members. “We can’t do what we do without the community.”
The city said between June 2019 and July 2019, U.S. Vets Phoenix:
- Served 1154 Veterans
- Provided 99,611 meals to veterans experiencing homelessness
- Helped 226 Veterans find permanent housing
- Helped 150 Veterans find jobs.