To you this may look like a small apartment.. but to Alvin Gill it's a palace.....
"Look at all this space that I have. It just, it can be real. I have to slap myself." he says spreading his arms as he sits on his couch.
It's a whole lot bigger than the car the army veteran was living in after he became homeless for a year. He went to the VA for treatment for his alcohol abuse and depression and ended up in the city's Housing a Hero program. The inital goal for the program was 100 vets in 100 days. That was a year ago. At a luncheon the city announced over 450 vets have found housing through the program... The city and county coordinated with a number of agencies including the VA to tackle the issue of chronic homelessness with a focus on veterans...
"We started with veterans because it's a definable population and they have resources available to veterans,. It's a shame to have any veteran on the streets of America in Houston.. but it's not something that's going to happen again in Houston." says Mayor Annise Parker.
Parker says the next step is to apply lessons learned to other chronically homeless populations. The city is taking that step already by finding housing for a grand total of five hundred people including the vets. Parker says it's more complicated than just finding a place, they take an individualized and comprehensive approach so the formerly chronically homeless can stay in the housing the city finds for them.
As for Gill.. he has no plans to leave and he offers this advice to homeless vets to get the ball rolling.
"You need to get down to the va and tell them the truth, you need help."
The mayor admits although they've made progress there's still a lot to do and she says they have no intention of stopping. The wars are winding down and the population of veterans keeps growing..