tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera April 11, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT
i'll see you back here one more time tomorrow night. ali velshi, "on target" is next. ♪ >> i'm ali velshi. on target tonight, homeless in america, more than half a million men, women and children living on the streets in one of the world's richest countries. i'll bring you their stories, and what's being done to help americans, including veterans who have no place to call home. all weeklong, aljazeera america is showcasing a selection of your stories. some of the most important issues that we covered on this
channel for you, and that includes a subjective devoted hundreds of hours top understanding, both in my professional and personal life. homelessness in america. here in new york, i see the struggles of the homeless while doing volunteer outreach with new york city's chronically homeless every week. there are over half a million homeless americans. nearly a quarter are children under the age of 18. and then there's this. nearly one in a dozen homeless are veterans. that's why president obama set a goal top end homelessness among veterans. that has not happened. but the official estimate of homeless veterans is down by one-third since 2010. still homeless vets face serious challenges, including a bureaucracy at the department of affairs that is hard to document.
we went to homeless vets trying to help them. >> i'm usually up between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning, and when i wake up, i usually have a cigarette and cup of coffee. >> it's early morning in section meant oh, california. and temperatures on this day are already pushing 100 degrees. but 63-year-old ron stangler knows there's not much chance of escaping the heat. >> i've been homeless for 16 years now. >> stangler is one of the 50,000 homeless veterans. he said a hip injury on the job left him out of work two decades ago, and he has never been able to get back on his feet. but for the first time in decades, he has found hope that home will soon mean a roof over his head. outreach worker, eddie, is part
of a national effort to ensure that no homeless veteran will ever live unhoused again. >> we're in their face, and giving them hope, right from the getgo. >> what do you mean. >> off the bat, building trust with them that i'm going to do something. >> thank you for asking about her. >> nuñez, a military veteran himself, scours the city regularly for former service members. they need help, but have fallen through the cracks over the years. >> there's no reason a veteran should not ask for something and receive it. especially when it comes to the basics of life, housing and food. >> the rights of every veteran, including ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. >> the notion that one homeless veteran is one too many is why president obama in 2010 launched a plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. >> we're not going to stop
until every veteran who has defended america has a home in america. >> largely funded by the department of veteran's affairs, it's a $7 billion initiative that partners community groups with government agencies. it uses aggressive outreach in what is called the housing first model. that's the idea of giving permanent housing to the homeless with no strings attached. and it is already bringing the total number of veterans nationwide down by 30%. >> is there anything else that i can do for you? >> you know i want to get out of here as soon as possible. >> stangler has now found urgency in finding how's. his partner cannot return to a life living outdoors. >> she's got cancer. and i'm sorry. but when i think about her, and
i'm too old to cry. and it's just -- it's very important for me to get a place so she can be with me. because i don't know how much longer she would really have. >> but it has been three months, and a now-clean-shaven stangler is still without a home. despite an effort to streamline the housing process, advocates say accessing the va services involves a frustrating amount of red tape. >> there are a lot of folks, but still focusing on the one, you don't really help nobody. >> the gay that the person says i'm ready to get off the street, i'm ready to make these choice, you need to respond to that moment. >> ryan runs "steps forward," the organization in charge of the city's effort. >> sometimes when we have systems that cause them to wait, you can lose that moment of hope. >> at last count, sacramento
had 3,000 homeless veterans, they have housed hundreds by january, but likely won't meet the year end deadline. he said bureaucratic delays and lack of affordable housing have made it a challenge. >> it's not cheap, and it's difficult to acquire those units, and there's a certain stigma that's attached to this population. >> i enjoy the time i stay at a laundromat or somebody, i wouldn't let nobody know what my situation was. >> former staff sergeant, edward, quickly found out how crippling the va bureaucracy could be when he turned to them for housing help. >> it's not going to happen. >> honorably discharged in 2014, after 16 years of active duty and three tours in iraq, 39-year-old fach moved to
california to pursue his dreams of being an nfl coach. he found work as an assistant coach at a local high school, but the small stipend he earned couldn't pay the rent. he went to the local va, but for months he was given the run around and no help. >> you can call one person, and they see you to this person and to that person, and nobody is really there for you. >> he eventually found refuge at a fellow vet's house, and once there, he was connected to the city's homeless outreach agency, which helped him navigate the va's labyrinth of paperwork. >> these guys all work together better than the va. >> the va's inspector general issued a scathing report last december, criticizing the department's hotline to help homeless veterans. auditors identified 40,500 missed opportunities to connect
veterans with services, and over one quarter of the callers had to leave messages on the answering machine because councilors were not available to take the calls. the va declined to speak to the story, but they said that the inspector gem was complying with all of the recommendations on the report. >> we're moving forward. >> two months after we first met him, his va housing is time coming through. ththe apartment is empty, but it's big enough for his entire family from georgia to come live. >> we got each other. meanwhile, ron stangler is still waiting for his new home. his partner, johnna, has moved to a temporary facility. and he makes the half hour walk
to visit her daily. >> hey. >> yeah. >> to here what's going on with me. all right? you know the apartment i told you about? as soon as we get it, i can take you there with me. all right? >> okay. >> and it's looking like now, maybe 30 more days. >> stangler only hopes johnna stays well enough long enough to come home. >> with any luck, it will be a short period of time. and then we can be back together. i love you, baby. all right?
>> well, since that story first ran, ron stangler has moved in with his partner, johnna, in her room, and under his care, johnna's health has improved. coming up, why ending homelessness may be giving them their own homes, and how that could save taxpayers money. >> you don't have to be sober, or on medication for mental illness to be place into housing. just because you need a home makes it so you can get a home.
reached record highs in recent years as housing costs soar, but the bigger picture tells a different story. nationwide, the homeless population has increased every year since 2007, and the biggest have come from the chronically homeless, people who live on the street. it's a program that essentially gives the chronically homeless their own apartments. it started in new york, and it has become a national program. >> being homeless, i hit bottom here. >> you were in this neighborhood because there were drugs here. where would you sleep? >> anywhere along here. >> back in interstate interstate, valerie wilkinson had been on the streets for two years, drinking and battling depression, she found what safe haven she could outside of this school in harlem. >> how did you get away from this?
>> it got to the point where i got sick and tired of being sick and tired. >> that's when wilkinson finally sought help from a non-profit agency outreach, called cucs. >> we have problems with homelessness in new york city, it's a huge problem, and we have to work at it. >> erica strang runs the outreach program, it's a program that i know well. a shift in the economy, and these are folks in some cases who have been out for many many years. >> we have folks who have been out for 15, 20 years. >> early every morning, teams from cucs set out on the streets, looking for folks, sleeping outside of upper manhattan. >> good morning, folks. >> good morning, we're with the outreach program. >> the chronically homeless make up roughly 15% of the
total homeless population. they're mostly men, but some women who have lived on the streets for years. many struggle with mental illness or substance abuse, but in the end, their homelessness puts a huge drain on public resources. each costs the taxpayers up to $50,000 annually in the social services they use. >> maybe someone called 9-1-1 because they're laid out on the street. and that's the cost of ems coming there, and if they're incarcerated, housing them in jail, and substance abuse, and detox and rehab programs. >> but strang says that the model of the housing first model changes that, it uses programs to house chronically homeless. >> you can get a home.
>> reporter: critic say that this strategy of housing first to address mental health issues rewards bad behavior and could be down right responsible. but it has spread across the country because it works. since 2007, the amount of chronically homeless in the united states has dropped by a half, from 80,000 to 90,000, and more importantly, it saves money. in new york, the cost per homeless persons croft 16,282 less a year. colorado experienced double the savings, from 43,239 down to 11,694. and nationwide, housing 100,000 chronically homeless americans cut an estimated $1.3 billion a year in costs. >> i think that it's hard to
appreciate how transformative housing could be. you see it first in the transformation with these individuals, with regards for their own ability to care for themselves, basic hygiene, better control, and any substance abuse that they may have. >> studies show that housing first programs have reduced substance abuse on the homeless by 36%. and that continues, as many remain in housing a year after originally being placed with little drop off years after. cc matchum had a lot of problems. sleeping under this bridge, she was addicted to crack and as a transgender woman felt unsafe living in shelters, but with the help of cscs moved into her own apartment last summer. >> there's more to life than
just using >> and with a new job at a call center, she's estimated to be one of the 30% of housing first part ants who end up returning to the workforce. >> i get to be a person in society again. >> when i first came here, it felt like home. >> valerie wilkinson workings part-time as an administrative assistant, one of the estimated 30% of participants who end up returning for the workforce. she's studying for computer certification that she hopes will lead to better full-time work. five years sober, she's reconnected with her family, including a daughter that she had not seen in two decades. >> i lived in darkness for so long. and it was hopeless now, and now walking in the light, i have a lot to lock forward to.
>> i'm happy to report that valerie wilkinson is still living in her home and is approaching seven years sober. coming up, americans whologicals their jobs and lose their homes and then find themselves living in their cars. what the great recession did to thousands of americans who fell out of the middle class. >> just because you're homeless doesn't mean that you don't want to work, because you do, and you want the security that you had. >> it's a struggle. it's hard to just wake up and want to keep it. >> if anybody had told me i was going to be living in my car, i would laugh and say that's not a possibility.
>> i've been talking tonight about homeless people living on the streets, and including a large group of homeless, people force to live in their cars. the government doesn't keep records of the so-called vehicular homeless, but advocates say that we might be seeing the greatest number, and it's not only illegal, but unsafe. and that's why they have come up with a solution.
this is back in the fall of 2013. >> just before 6 p.m., as others start their community home from work, theresa smith heads toward this church in downtown san diego, but it's not religion that she's after. it's the parking lot. >> this is our office, what we use. so we have our file cabinet, and paperwork, and basic toiletries, and snacks that we get in for donations. we want to make sure that our participants have what they need. >> she founded a non-profit, renting the lots from this church and a youth center nearby. it's one of a dozen programs and 85 sites on the west coast that provide a safe haven for the roughly 59% of the homeless who live in their cars. >> how is your case going? >> it's going good. >> smith started in 2010 with the great recession, families
accustomed to security and instability who were cafta drift in long-term unemployment. >> they would go to the shelters and come back in tears, saying it's not me, i'm not really homeless, i'm just in between right now, where do i go? >> now smith says 76% of them have some sort of income, but struggle with unemployment or jobs that pay just a fraction of what they're used to. >> just because you're homeless doesn't mean that you're not working, and just because you're homeless means that you don't, because you want the security that you had. >> katherine worked as a receptionist until she was laid off in 2009 and then she worked as a library assist. but that barely paid for a motel room. she lost her job and moved into her car. >> having found this place made it a lot easier. you're parked on the side of the street, and the police are going to come along and say, go
away. >> seniors make up one in five of those parked in the lot. and veterans account for another 20%. >> it's a struggle every day, and there are days where it's hard to wake up and want to keep going. >> after 12 years in the marine corp and deployment in both wars, he left the military in may. he's finishing a degree in bio engineering and looking for full-time work, but so far, he has only got part-time gigs. >> i'm just one of many veterans in a situation like this. >> the safe parking program has rules. you must be in by 9 p.m. and out by 7:00 a.m. there's zero tolerance for alcohol, drugs or violence. a criminal check for now applicants, and an agreement for one-on-one financial counseling. you can stay as long as you want, provided that you get back into housing. >> if anyone told me i was
going to be living in my car, i would laugh and say that's not a possibility. >> in 2010, landry spent nine months he had a collections job that once earned him six figures. >> the people were performs, if they weren't on my lot, they were people who used to live next door to me in my house. >> landry final landed work working in his car, and uses his brand-new car only to drive to and from his job. but safe places have come under fire by nearby residents, worried about safety. they shut down the lot after repeated community complaints. >> no offense, people like you come in here and you don't have to put up with these people. >> more than 5,000 miles away, a growing population of people
living in their cars and rvs have created a host of problems. >> they steal from us, and they drop their trash wherever they want, they bring the property value down because who wants to buy a house with a campground of america across the street. >> graham cross helped to create seattle's parking program last year. he said a few bad eggs may lurk, but 70% are first time homeless, desperate to get back on their feet. >> we need a safe community, with people who want to get to work, and live the american dream that we feel we're justified toward. >> a dream that psychology student, belinda escobar forces herself to keep in mind each night as she and her children are crammed into their small sedan. >> about a week ago, i just didn't want to go back to my
car. it was hard. but you know, hopefully, at the end of the line, i'll have something better to offer my kids. so it's temporary. a long temporary, but it will be over soon. >> since we first aired our report, there are now waiting lists to get into the safe parking lots in san diego. some 30-70 cars on any given night. the reasons are rising rents and tight housing market. here are updates. katherine williams who was living in a car with her mother has seen her health deteriorate the past few years. she reasonable moved in with a friend in san diego, where living costs are cheaper. he found housing through the va. and millenda escobar, who we met with her four kids got approved for government subsidized housing a few months later.