Housing a first step in aiding homeless AZ veterans - CBS 5 - KPHO

Housing a first step in aiding homeless AZ veterans

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Tedie Irving did two tours in the Middle East and now the former homeless veteran has a place he calls home in Victory Place in Phoenix. (Source: CBS 5 News) Tedie Irving did two tours in the Middle East and now the former homeless veteran has a place he calls home in Victory Place in Phoenix. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Bridwell works with Project H-3 vets, an outreach co-op with volunteers from veterans services, housing and mental health. (Source: CBS 5 News) Bridwell works with Project H-3 vets, an outreach co-op with volunteers from veterans services, housing and mental health. (Source: CBS 5 News)
"We're working on finding out what services veterans need, so when we line up those services, we come back out and find the veterans on the streets," Bridwell said. (Source: CBS 5 News) "We're working on finding out what services veterans need, so when we line up those services, we come back out and find the veterans on the streets," Bridwell said. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Often, mental illness, physical disabilities and addiction compound the problem for homeless Arizona veterans. (Source: CBS 5 News) Often, mental illness, physical disabilities and addiction compound the problem for homeless Arizona veterans. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

(This is the second in a series of stories by Nicole Crites on the efforts by the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.)

Tedie Irving is 45 years old and finally has a place to call his own.

"I did two tours," Irving said. "The first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm."

After getting out, he "couch surfed" and wound up on the street.

"To see so many homeless veterans, the guys and ladies who have served this country," he said shaking his head. "Those numbers are just really, really ridiculous."

On any given night, there are nearly 1,300 veterans sleeping on the streets across Arizona.

Chronic homelessness is one of the worst problems facing the state's veterans.

"We deal a lot with pride aspects," said Brad Bridwell, Irving's landlord. "You know, a veteran just has a lot of dignity and self-respect and pride, and sometimes those things don't work in your favor when you're down and out and needing help."

Group works to provide services

Bridwell works with Project H-3 vets, an outreach co-op with volunteers from veterans services, housing and mental health.

"We're working on finding out what services veterans need, so when we line up those services, we come back out and find the veterans on the streets," Bridwell said. 

"So if we're able to take your picture, we're able to find you better."

And it's a grim picture of sharing a squat under a bridge pillar or sleeping on a bed of rocks by the railroad tracks.

Homelessness alone is not the issue

"Why am I still here?" shouted a woman who was lying on a public bench. "Stupid, ugly miserable people. I want my life back. I had a very good life."

Often, mental illness, physical disabilities and addiction compound the problem.

"A lot of veterans really just really don't like to take orders anymore," Irving said.

He said he remembers going on a drinking binge, during which he didn't shower for a full month.

"I really just didn't care, and it gets like that sometimes," he said.

He's been in and out of transitional housing for veterans in Washington state and California.

"They say only the strong survive, and you gotta be very, very strong when you out on the streets," Irving said.

He's lived at Victory Place, a residential complex for veterans in Phoenix, more than a year now.

"I'm trying to get myself back together," he said, adding that he's ready to go back to school to be a diesel mechanic.

He said he might try and ship back to the Middle East, this time as a contract worker.

Victory Place one option for housing

Victory Place is one of many housing options a veteran has. Cloudbreak Communities offers subsidized housing for veterans in five states.

It works with HUD and the VA to secure vouchers to house nearly 3,000 at-risk veterans.

Even the kitchen on the property offers free or reduced meals and employment for a few of  the residents.

It's called the "housing first" method: get veterans in housing, then bring the services to them, significantly increasing their odds for success, Bridwell explained.

Project H-3 started passing out flyers for "Arizona Standdown," an all-call for veterans in February to come in, clean up, get a clean slate, and start over.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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