IN THE NEWS: Fewer homeless veterans, but VA’s deadline looms

This story appeared in the Military Times on May 31, 2015.

Navy veteran Darryl Riley spent almost 25 years in and out of homeless shelters before landing in the U.S.VETS’ “Veterans in Progress” program earlier this spring.

“This time feels totally different,” the 55-year-old veteran said. “In the shelters, they’re just putting a roof over your head, some food into you. Here, the accommodations are nicer, and they have employment programs to help get you trained for jobs.

“I never had that chance in the past.”

After leaving the Navy, Riley worked on construction sites around the Washington, D.C., area, but never managed keep enough savings to weather downturns in the job market.

He found out about the 85-bed transitional housing program — funded through new federal grants — at a job fair just a block from his latest shelter stop. After a flurry of assistance from group officials, he’s in a downtown apartment and a new job training program, with a goal to find work quickly.

“I’ve only got a few years left until retirement,” he joked. “I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Riley’s plan illustrates the success of recent efforts to end veterans homelessness by providing better outreach and sustainable resources for troubled individuals.

But it also shows the challenge still ahead, with tens of thousands of veterans like Riley still on the streets or in danger of returning there…

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