As many as 400 veterans seeking homeless services went to the Truman Veterans’ Memorial Hospital in Columbia last year for the first time. That’s according to Sarah Froese with the Truman facility. A Columbia task force uses a scoring system, called the Vulnerability Index Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, to determine who faces homelessness. The Truman VA also uses this tool.
Froese says homelessness among veterans is declining in the Columbia area.
“We have been able to decrease homelessness among this area,” says Froese. “I think what is happening is as we’re opening the window and we’re having honest, frank discussions about what homelessness is and what it isn’t, now we’re starting to see people come forward that we had not necessarily thought were homeless.”
Froese says some will wait until they are in a crisis before they will ask for help. She says what is considered homeless can differ between urban and rural communities.
“The spectrum can be from I have absolutely no housing to I’m going to be evicted tomorrow,” says Froese. “When we’d even go do you have any homeless problems here, oh no. But, they don’t consider like maybe living in an old trailer with no utilities as homeless. They don’t consider well I gave this guy a bed to sleep on in the barn as homeless.”
Many homeless veterans will also do what Froese refers to as “couch hopping”. She says other vets will open up their homes to homeless vets that need a place to stay.
A 25-unit housing complex in Columbia, called Patriot Place, gives some low-income, homeless veterans a permanent housing option. Four women live in the development and the rest are men. A 32-bed shelter for homeless vets is also being built next door to Patriot Place.