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Homeless Advocates Seek Landlords to Help End Veteran Homelessness by the End of this Year

Homeless Advocates Seek Landlords to Help End Veteran Homelessness by the End of this Year

More than 70 communities nationwide are working to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year. Lee County is taking part in the campaign. Though it’s had some success, now it’s having a hard time finding landlords willing to house homeless veterans.

Lee County is searching for more landlords who will open at least two units in their communities to help house veterans.

Janet Bartos, the executive director of the Lee County Homeless Coalition, said the campaign has housed 176 veterans, with nearly 60 veterans who still need to find homes by the end of the year.

“To end homelessness, means we’re going to have a system in place that insures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare breed and non-reoccurring experience,” said Bartos. “It means we will have enough resources to meet the need. So, if somebody becomes homeless and they want to be housed, that we will have the resources for them.”

The U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, help veterans pay monthly rental costs.

But landlords raise the cost of rent and stop taking the vouchers, at times, causing veterans who were previously housed to have to leave, said Sherri Campanale with the Lee County and Fort Myers Housing Authorities. HUD publishes the fair market rent annually.

“They’re dropping out because the fair market rents are lower than what they can charge for their rent,” said Campanele. “Last month we had 33 vets and other regular voucher holders displaced, and this was in one development, because their landlords didn’t renew their contracts because they’re no longer taking the voucher. And, to put it bluntly, the landlords no longer need that guaranteed federal check every month to make their mortgage payments. And, we are losing very valuable housing for our clients.”

The assistant manager with Mariners Landing in Fort Myers, Joniel Jourdan, has housed ten veterans this year as a part of the campaign. She said she will continue because it’s the right thing to do.

“There are no incentives,” said Jourdan. “It’s just straight from the heart, basically. We don’t want to see anybody out on the streets. Whatever we can do to help anyone, we always try and do that.”

Meanwhile, Dennis Simon, the volunteer housing development manager with the non-profit Hearts and Homes for Veterans, said there are probably more homeless veterans than the Lee County Homeless Coalition and HUD count. Simon said the number left to house by years’ end is probably closer to 100.

“It’s really hard to know how many people are really staying with relatives for short term or staying with friends,” said Simon. “And the other thing is, let’s say we house some veterans, there are always new ones coming about.”

Simon said Hearts and Homes for Veterans recently purchased a 10,000-square-foot building in Fort Myers. It will be a service center, office and warehouse to help care for veterans. There, he said, they receive donations, including furniture and household goods to help keep veterans in their homes.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.