Veteran homelessness has increased in Kansas according to new data


American flags are placed at a fountain in honor of fallen service members during a ceremony at the Tidewater Veterans Memorial in Virginia Beach for Veterans Day. The City of Virginia Beach has been hosting the Veterans Day parade and ceremonies since 1970. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Betsy Knapper/Released)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — According to new data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homelessness among veterans has risen in Kansas by 7.4% from 2019 to 2020.

Retired Marine Corps Col. Michael Hudson said it happens too often. 

“Some of that comes from the fact that a vet leaving service, you know, getting a job, being able to maintain a job,” Hudson said. 

Hudson said that the lack of a job after leaving the service can lead to financial insecurity and veterans don’t always know where to turn for resources. 

“They raise certain benefits and a lot of times veterans don’t know that when they transition out,” Hudson said. 

This may put some veterans at risk of being homeless. 

“It’s okay to ask for help. That’s one of the biggest barriers that we run into,” Hudson said.

The retired Colonel said the best remedy is to point vets in the right direction. The Wichita VA is using its outreach programs to do just that.

“Making sure that we are really helping veterans with all of their needs, not just homelessness,” said Misty Lester, chief of social work service at the Wichita VA. 

Through the VA’s efforts, Wichita saw an increase of only one homeless veteran last year — or 0.017%.

“We have somehow touched 925 veterans through our homeless program”, Lester said.

The VA adapted to the fluctuations of the pandemic by issuing electronic devices. Now 82% of vets in the homeless program are connected virtually. 

“Electronic visits, we do that because we can reach out to the veteran more frequently,” Lester said. 

Hudson says reaching out is all it takes. “Hurting is hurting. Just ask them, how can I help?”

According to the HUD data, nationwide, between 2019 and 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased by less than 1%.

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