Rochester is making progress when it comes to providing help for homeless veterans. That is one of the main messages delivered at an annual summit on veterans mental health and homelessness held at Nazareth College on Wednesday.
The progress, according to Mayor Lovely Warren, is evident by a designation the city just received. It has met a challenge issued by First Lady Michelle Obama to end veteran homelessness. Warren says cities had to achieve a status of "functional zero," which means that housing is available for all homeless veterans that seek it.
One of the speakers at the Nazareth event says he's been a beneficiary of the network of services available in the Rochester area. Emil Anderson is a Vietnam Vet, who got addicted to prescription and other drugs after he came back from serving in the Marines in Vietnam in the 1970s and spent some time without a regular place to live.
Anderson says he got help from local agencies, and eventually got into an apartment.
“I stayed there for five years, saved my pennies and three years ago I bought a house in Chili, so I basically went from homeless to buying a home, so this program here has helped me and saved my life,” Anderson told WXXI News.
Anderson is now a mentor for a local drug court, trying to help people who are dealing with the kinds of problems he once had.
Anderson’s fiancé is Belinda Miller of Rochester, who is a veteran herself and a nurse who has worked with other area veterans.
She says one of the problems is that a lot of vets are slow to ask for help, even when it’s available.
“When you go to basic training, you’re trained to be strong, suck it up and dig your heels in and drive forward. So, a lot of it is pride, a veteran doesn’t want to be looked upon with pity, they want a hand up not a hand out, so a lot of it is pride, and not knowing what resources are available.”
Officials with the local V-A and other organizations says the Rochester area has made good progress in helping homeless vets by coordinating an array of services.
Recent data shows that in 2015, there were 55 homeless veterans in the Rochester area, including 17 in emergency housing, 33 in transitional housing, one in “safe haven,” and four who were unsheltered and had refused assistance.