Homeless 88-year-old veteran a Housing First success story

Homeless 88-year-old veteran a Housing First success story

From a homeless veteran to a Housing First success story.

88-year-old Air Force Veteran Thomas Murray V is one of more than a dozen people now placed in an apartment subsidized by the State.

His one-bedroom unit in Makiki is a big step up from where he was last year living out of self storage, and sleeping in his car.

He was one of the first homeless seniors to get a rental through the U.S. VETS Housing First program last May.

It's home now, a world away from where he was.

Murray said, "I was sleeping in the car. I was living at Hawaii Self Storage, but they won't let you sleep there. A few have tried. There's a zillion people out there looking for a place or sleeping on the street or whatever. I'm very grateful. I've been blessed."

Darryl Vincent heads up U.S. VETS, which has so far placed 10 homeless veterans, and six civilians into housing across Oahu.

"We have some in town. Some as far out as Waianae and Leeward coast" explained Vincent. "They're women,they're men, they're young. They're older."

His team works with Homeless Outreach to identify chronically homeless with a high vulnerability score, and match them with an apartment.

Vincent added, "Housing First is such a different philosophy that you don't set any conditions that you wouldn't set for anyone else living in the unit. They have to pay their rent, which in their case is 30 percent of their income."

Murray pays $400 dollars a month. A state grant covers the remaining $1,000 of his rent.

Murray feels privileged to be placed in his own apartment, saying "I was amazed when I found out how this worked. I didn't have to be sold, so to speak."

With a boost in State funding to $1.25 million, Housing First aims to place at least 65 other vulnerable members of Hawaii's homeless community into rentals by July.

As the name suggests, the first step is to find housing. Then, case workers provide services to address issues that led to them living on the streets.

The City has budgeted $3 million for its Housing First program.

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