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Homelessness Groups Ask for $5 for Veterans

PHOTO: A legislative committee holds a hearing today on a bill that would generate about $6 million to help homeless veterans in Oregon. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: A legislative committee holds a hearing today on a bill that would generate about $6 million to help homeless veterans in Oregon. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
April 22, 2013

SALEM, Ore. - Just five bucks for Oregon's homeless veterans. It's an offer being examined in a legislative committee hearing today. The bill (HB 2417) would add five dollars to the real estate recording fee, with the money going to help veterans with emergency housing, affordable housing and home ownership.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 7,000 veterans in Oregon are homeless.

Alison Perry, executive director, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach in Bend, said so many young vets are coming home to an economy still in distress.

"They're struggling with so much in terms of integrating their combat experiences that it's harder for them to work," she said. "So, to meet that basic need of housing can make a huge difference for someone."

The Housing Alliance reports that when veterans do find work, most of the kinds of jobs available don't pay enough to afford housing. It's expected the increase would generate about $6 million through 2015.

Gerald Pygott is a case manager at Northwest Human Services who spends two days a week in the brush and forests looking for veterans living in tents. He said that when vets do not have a roof over their heads, they cannot concentrate on anything else.

"By stabilizing housing, then they can move forward," he said, "because that safety concern isn't there. Now they can start focusing on jobs and all of that."

Pygott said most of the homeless veterans he encounters served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, although homelessness is also persistent among older vets.

The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. as a joint session of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Development and the Subcommittee on Human Services. See the legislation at https://olis.leg.state.or.us.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - OR