Homelessness Remains A Big Problem Among Veterans - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Homelessness Remains A Big Problem Among Veterans

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As Veterans Day approaches, so does the need for housing, clothing and food for many veterans in our area.  The Northern Nevada Veterans Resource Center says it helps 500 homeless vets every year, and the demand increases during the winter months. The organization is currently assisting 102 veterans by paying for security deposits, first-month's rent, or paying a month of rent if a veteran has received an eviction notice.

"We also have a transitional living facility that houses 24 homeless vets that are battling mental health disabilities, substance abuse or alcoholism," Shane Whitecloud, Outreach Specialist for Northern Nevada Veterans Resource Center said.

Italo Jimenez moved to Reno about two years ago, after serving 12 years in the U.S. Army. Despite working 16-hour days, he found himself living on the streets and showering at a local gym.  Luckily, the Veterans Resource Center was there to help.

"I managed to get a job, bring my wife here, get an apartment but the job was seasonal, so I lost it," Jimenez said.

Now, he is struggling to pay his utility bill, and recently received an eviction notice. Jimenez says he is used to being self-sufficient, and it took a lot to ask for help, but once again, he swallowed his pride and turned to VRC.  Whitecloud says he is glad to help.

"Two percent of our nation's population put their names on that dotted line and said they would give their life for our country," Whitecloud said. "So the words 'homeless' and 'veteran' should never belong in the same sentence. However, it does exist."

As fall turns to winter, the colder weather brings a higher demand for basic necessities like food, clothing and blankets for homeless veterans.

"We're focusing primarily on coats, blankets, and especially during November, we're looking for food donations to help put together Thanksgiving baskets for our clients," Whitecloud said.

"They're trying to fight to find a blanket or a sleeping bag to cover themselves up," Karl Ervin, Case Manager for Northern Nevada Veterans Center said. "It honestly hurts."

Jimenez says he knows, first-hand, what many homeless veterans struggle with, and feels like he is one of the lucky ones.

"There's a few veterans on the street that are missing limbs and they can't actually get what I'm getting, the help that I'm getting," Jimenez said. "I can get a job. They might not be able to."

A federal grant pays for the deposit and rent service but many veterans do not even know where to find help. Ervin says the goal is to give them a hand up so they can live and sustain a normal life.

"They're tired of living on the streets for 20-30 years and they come in here and we're able to call one of our landlords and within a few phone calls, literally place them sometimes that day," Ervin said.

Many veterans are too proud to ask for help.  Jimenez says VRC has helped him a lot and he is very grateful.

"In a way, you feel good because they're helping me but in a way, I feel bad because I could be trying to help these other guys," Jimenez said.

The Veterans Resource Center also takes furniture donations to help furnish apartments.  People can donate or volunteer by calling (775) 284-8387.

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