Officials hope to help Glendale's homeless veterans

Public officials and advocates for homeless people said Friday that they believe they can eliminate homelessness among military veterans in Glendale in the next 12 months.

The comments came at a public forum during which officials released data collected as part of a three-day homeless census conducted earlier this week. The outreach effort was executed under the umbrella of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, launched by New York City-based organization Common Ground and dedicated to moving 100,000 chronically homeless individuals into permanent housing.

"I was very gratified to talk to the Common Ground people today who felt that after doing the survey … it wasn't only realistic that we could end veteran homelessness in a year, they said it was a no-brainer, and that is really great to hear," said Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman.

Representatives and volunteers for PATH Achieve Glendale, the Glendale Police Department and numerous faith-based organizations canvassed the city during the early-morning hours Monday through Wednesday, making contact with homeless people and recording critical data.

"We know that there is a tremendous amount of support in the community," said Natalie Profant Komuro, executive director at PATH Achieve Glendale, the city's largest homeless services provider. "When people are asked, they will step up and they will help, and they will do it even on short notice. We knew that even though we had six weeks to pull this off, that we had partners who would be ready to go."

Volunteers contacted with 73 people living on the streets, said Leslie Wise, Los Angeles program manager with Common Ground. Some 43 agreed to be surveyed, answering a range of questions about mental and physical health, substance abuse and military service. The data were then analyzed using a vulnerability index.

Of those surveyed, 35 were classified as vulnerable, which includes factors such as liver disease, end-stage renal disease, HIV/AIDS and a history of wet- or cold-weather injuries, Wise said. The average age of the non-vulnerable population was 49, while the average age of the vulnerable population was 51.

The oldest person surveyed was 70 years old, Wise said.

Of the seven veterans surveyed, three fell within the vulnerable category.

"What this registry does is it gives us very specific information about people," Profant Komuro said. "We get the photographs and their names so that we can actually go back out and help them out of homelessness. I think for that, this innovation is truly, truly one of the most powerful tools that we have in homeless services."

The next step begins Monday, officials said, when social service professionals will begin to try and match those who participated in the census with appropriate services, including permanent housing.

Volunteer Scott Lowe said that the count took him down his own street, and described it as a very moving experience.

"What was most interesting about it for me was actually putting stories and names with faces that I had seen in the neighborhood," he said.

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