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Homeless Veterans In St. Louis Receiving Extra Attention

Robert Peterson / St. Louis Public Radio
The city of St. Louis is focusing on getting homeless veterans into programs like the ones offered at the Salvation Army's veteran's residence, shown here in 2012.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were in St. Louis today in an effort to get homeless veterans off the street and into housing immediately.

The outreach to veterans was part of the required winter count of homeless people in the city. Officials with the VA went out with teams, conducting the count to be able to offer immediate help to chronically homeless veterans. It was part of the Obama administration's efforts to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

"I found it intolerable that there’s anybody without a home, but I think there’s just a certain appreciation for the circumstances that they have lived through, and the fact that they did protect us," city human services director Bill Siedhoff said.

The money for the additional veterans housing is not at the expense of funds for other groups, Siedhoff said, but rather from an influx of new federal dollars.

"While there’s services available in terms of counseling, case management, that kind of thing, it’s harder to find the dollars to prove for apartments, for places for people to live, and I think that’s where VA is doing a good job," he said, adding, "It's long overdue, to be honest with you."

Last year’s count showed 193 homeless veterans in the city’s borders — about 13 percent of the total homeless population.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.