City officials are working to end veteran homelessness in Chattanooga. The goal is to get all veterans off the streets by the end of this year. A city survey, conducted in 2015, found 80 veterans were homeless, but since then hundreds have moved into the city. And thanks to the "Zero 2016" initiative with local landlords, more than 200 veterans now have a home.
Carey Thornhill renovates homes for a living, this year he gave 20 homeless veteran's a second chance by offering them affordable housing. He hopes others will follow his lead.
Andrew King served in the United States Navy for ten years. Two years ago he became homeless. “We lost everything we had. We tried living in weekly motels. They didn't work.”
For four months he lived on the streets, until city leaders created an initiative to end homelessness. “Vets are being prioritized right now, very quickly,” said Heather Hoffman, Homeless Program Coordinator with the City of Chattanooga. The goal is to provide affordable housing to veterans. “We do have to ask landlords to go down more than they might be able to get somewhere else. We try to offer a competitive price but we can't always do that.”
Landlords offer a reduced rent. Carey Thornhill charges about $100 less for veterans. “The least we could do is when they get back to their city's is to provide them a decent affordable living,” said Carey Thornhill with Thornhill Management Group.
He understands there's a negative stigma when it comes to homeless vets. But believes they deserve a second chance. “Them being on the street is not the place to start. Providing them a house, a place where they are happy to come to with serenity and can start that process if they were in that position.”
So people like Andrew King, can have a place to call home. “It is perfect, down stairs, it’s the way I like it. I'm secure down there.” A place for him to recoup, recover and regrow his life. A simple gesture, for our American Heroes. “I have been blessed, absolutely blessed more than you ever know. Words can't describe how much I have been blessed.”
Currently Chattanooga has 41 veterans looking for housing, 16 have funds ready to go, but Heather Hoffman said there is just not enough housing to accommodate.
If you or someone you know is a veteran who needs housing assistance or can offer it click here.