Local Agency Struggles to Help Veterans
Welcome Home, Incorporated has seen an increase in the number of homeless veterans seeking shelter in Columbia. It estimates one in five homeless people in Columbia are veterans.
In recent years, funding from government has decreased for veterans needs and services. Welcome Home was one of those places hit with a decrease in funding.
It said it had to turn away more 150 homeless veterans in the last two years because of lack of space and money.
"If I could get every single citizen in Columbia to donate one dollar, we would be able to build a shelter that would provide services to homeless veterans right here in Columbia," executive director of Welcome Home, Aneisa Sherrill-Mattox, said.
Sherrill-Mattox also said every night she loses sleep because she has to live with turning people away. As a veteran herself, she pledged not to ever leave anyone behind. The pledge did not last because she had to turn veterans away when funding was decreased.
Veterans who are lucky enough to get shelter from Welcome Home usually have to provide their own food, clothing and transportation.
Welcome home is a non-profit organization run by local veterans. It began in 1992 when veterans came home from war and saw many troops without homes and services. The founders wanted to change what they saw, so they created a placed where veterans could stay for a temporary amount of time until they got on their feet.
Although Welcome Home did not forget veterans, most there feel that the U.S. government did.
A homeless veteran named Leon said veterans have fought to protect this country for years, so they should have priority and should not ever be homeless.
"There should not never be no homeless veterans because of one thing we fought this country blood, sweat and tears," Leon said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says on any night, more than 200,000 veterans are homeless.