Mecosta, Osceola officials pledge to end veterans homelessness

REED CITY — Collaboration among governmental and community agencies can make the difference between whether a homeless veteran can get the help they need or not.

Nearly two dozen officials from Mecosta and Osceola counties pledged their support to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s initiative to end veterans’ homelessness during a special gathering of the Continuum of Care board on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Michigan Works!, in Reed City.

In her 15th statewide pledge event, Stephanie Oles, a homeless assistance specialist with MSHDA, said officials can’t tolerate veterans homelessness.

“We need to continue to have robust conversations on how we can best serve our veterans in the community,” she said. “With the right ogranizations, the right strategies and the right commitment, you can do that here in Osceola and Mecosta counties.”

According to Soles, 4,000 veterans experienced homelessness in 2015, a 15 percent decline from 2014.

“We are gaining traction on the issue,” she pointed out. “We have to stay committed to see the barriers that are up to come down and get homeless veterans in housing in less than 90 days. It’s even better if it can be done within 30 days.”

Soles noted collaboration among the different agencies is key, from the very first moment a veteran’s needs are discovered.

“Working together with the resources available is the best way to approach veterans homelessness,” she said.

Larry Emig, chair of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners, said the point of the pledge is to raise awareness about the issue in the community.

“If we can bolster awareness, then we can be there to help the moment we find out about a homeless vet and provide them the services they need,” he said.

Mid Michigan Community Action Agency’s Jennifer Rogers spoke about her role to help veterans find housing with available grant funds, adding they are specifically for veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. She said there are around 15 to 20 homeless veterans who receive assistance throughout the year.

“We’re always looking to build stronger relationships with the Veterans Affairs and other organizations to work together,” she said. “If there is something we can’t help a veteran with, we look to other organizations and work together.”

MMCAA also provides help with quality of life issues for helping homeless veterans, in providing quality of life items from pots and pans to bedding.

“We do so much to help stabilize their housing needs and their family’s,” she said. “We try to reach out as much as possible to find help if we can’t provide it.”

With the resources available to homeless veterans in Mecosta and Osceola counties, Soles said she is confident officials can successfully keep their pledge.

“I’m sure that veterans here will get the help they need,” she said.

At the end of the event, officials signed the MSHDA pledge.