POCATELLO, Idaho - Homelessness is a problem, and when veterans become homeless, they may have some specific problems that need specific attention. A new program is catching on all over the nation, and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad is jumping on board.
The initiative is called the Mayor's Challenge, issued by first lady Michelle Obama. It has only been up and running a few weeks, and already more than 80 mayors across the nation are signing up. Blad said veterans are our nations heroes and they should be treated as such.
"To me it's tragedy for them to be homeless," he said. Blad feels the initiative is important to Pocatello and that's why they will be working with a variety of organizations throughout the city, including Aid for Friends, the Southeast Idaho Community Action Agency (SEICAA) as well as the Veterans Sanctuary on the Idaho State University campus.
Blad said while we have a relatively low homeless vet population at between 6 and 15 a night, he said having one homeless veteran is having one too many. While homelessness is a bigger problem in bigger cities, he said Pocatello is home to these folks, and they should have a place to call home other than the streets.
The whole goal behind the Mayor's Challenge is to have no homeless veterans. Pocatello's plan is to get veterans into permanent housing as quickly as possible. If they run into any problems of losing that residence, the city and organizations will work through the channels set up in the community to keep that vet with a roof over their head.
Blad also said because vets may have problems like post traumatic stress disorder, there are several agencies who will help with mental health. Employment is also a problem for some, but Blad said with all the resources in town, veterans should be able to have a home, get a job interview begin a sustainable life.
Mayor Blad said he wants to hold a community meeting with all landlords in the area, including Blackfoot, Chubbuck and Idaho Falls. He said for vets to benefit, the city of Pocatello will need to know which local landlords would be willing to assist the veterans they normally might not help.