More than 75 percent of homeless veterans in Sacramento County are sleeping on the streets or in cars, the second-highest percentage in the country behind Los Angeles, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report released this year, reports the Sacramento Bee.
There are an estimated 646 homeless veterans in the county, more than double what it was in 2016. At that time, 46.6 percent were sleeping outdoors, according to HUD data. Now, 308 are on the streets.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg last week released the locations of 20 sites where he wants to open homeless shelters, sanctioned tent encampments and tiny homes that would serve a total of up to 2,209 people at any given time.
Shelters could open within a couple of months if the City Council votes to approve the plan.
“We can no longer approve one site at a time,” Steinberg said during a news conference Wednesday. “We have got to act as a city that this is a true state of emergency.”
Joe Smith, advocacy director for homeless nonprofit Loaves and Fishes, says some homeless veterans are hesitant to seek out help on their own.
“They’re very proud of their service, they’re just very proud individuals. For some, because of that pride, they have a tough time reaching out and asking for help,” Smith said. “A lot of them are conditioned to be survivors and so that’s how they’re taking this — just another mission to survive.”
John Chapman, a veteran who spent 36 years homeless along the riverfront, found housing through the Volunteers of America, which currently has 192 Sacramento veterans in a program helping them find permanent housing and employment.
“They need to have more people out there pounding the streets,” said Chapman. “(Homeless veterans) don’t understand there’s help out there. You got to have someone show them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
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