Vouchers to help more homeless veterans

Army veteran Maurice Hibbler
Army veteran Maurice Hibbler
U.S. Vets clinical supervisor Kim Cook
U.S. Vets clinical supervisor Kim Cook
HUD-VASH social worker Juliet Miyagishima
HUD-VASH social worker Juliet Miyagishima

KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Right now 47 military veterans are off the streets and living in permanent housing at U.S. Vets in Kalaeloa through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, also known as VASH.

That includes Army veteran Maurice Hibbler, who fought a personal war.

"I made some bad choices and I paid the consequences," he said.

Once homeless, Hibbler is back on his feet, thanks largely to a housing voucher from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"VASH has just really turned my life around. It's given me back me," he said.

HUD-VASH vouchers are rental subsidies. It pays for Hibbler's studio apartment.

In the latest round of VASH funding, Hawaii will get $636,006.

U.S. Vets clinical supervisor Kim Cook said the money will subsidize rent for 50 to 75 homeless veterans for a year.

"This round of vouchers is specifically going to target the chronically homeless veterans, those with more complex mental health and substance abuse concerns," she said.

"I've seen a lot of them out there on the street that raised their hand to serve their country. And then in the same country that they fought to defend, they're homeless in," Hibbler said.

The VA said VASH vouchers have significantly reduced the number of homeless vets across the nation, and helped renters overcome misconceptions associated with homeless veterans.

"I think lots of people create this vision in their mind. And then they meet these individuals and they say, 'Hey, he or she is just like you or me,'" HUD-VASH social worker Juliet Miyagishima said.

Voucher amounts vary year to year, and according to whether a veteran is single or married with kids.

After Hibbler got into permanent housing he enrolled in college. Without VASH he might still be on the street.

"I'm a person again. I'm just not somebody on the streets with no place to go, no roof over their head," he said. "It's an opportunity to just right my life."

Veterans Affairs hopes to end veterans homelessness by 2015.

Hibbler success story moves the VA one veteran closer.

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