VA Secretary trying to keep Hawaii vets from being homeless - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

VA Secretary trying to keep Hawaii vets from being homeless

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The head of the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs is in Honolulu. VA Secretary Robert McDonald was at Schofield Barracks to help fight veteran homelessness and to make sure outgoing soldiers don't end up on the streets.

"Veterans aren't stupid," said McDonald. "They're very smart. And if they're going to be homeless they're not going to be homeless in Chicago in the middle of winter."

Secretary McDonald is in Hawaii to get the word out. He wants troops to know the VA is here help them transition successfully to civilian life. That means keeping a roof over their head. That's assuring news for retiring soldier Felise Ropati.

"Hawaii is not a place where we can just hang out and retire and live off my retirement," said Ropati

The Army Master Sergeant is among 1,700 servicemen and women taking advantage of military transition summits this week on Oahu. The accompanying job fair might just be what Ropati needs to keep from living on the street.

"To live in paradise I have to pay for paradise," said Rapoti. "I need to go out there and find a job."

Sponsored in part by the VA, the job fair and summit are aimed at giving transitioning troops a chance by giving them advice on how to find a job in the civilian world.

"Learn how to better communicate what your skills are, put together a good resume and really practice your interview skills," advised Retired Marine Corps Major General Chris Cortez, now Vice President of Military Affairs for Microsoft. Rapoti's taking Cortez's words to hear and is already putting them use. McDonald says that is only a start.

"Until the day comes when every veteran has a roof over their head, we're not going to be there," said McDonald. "So we still have more work to do."

McDonald said thanks to help from HUD he has the funding to help homeless vets with their rent. The next step is to meet with Hawaii landlords.

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