KSLA News 12 Special Report: Veterans and homelessness Pt.1 - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

KSLA News 12 Special Report: Veterans and homelessness [Pt.1]

Homeless veteran "Smokey" Homeless veteran "Smokey"

As veterans return home to the ArkLaTex from Iraq and Afghanistan, experts say more veterans are living on the streets.

KSLA News 12's Summer Knowles and Doug Warner shadowed a local veteran who has been homeless for more than a year. A Vietnam-era veteran known as "Smokey"  lives in a wooded area in Shreveport. He is considered chronically homeless. "I'm happy with what I have now, compared to what I didn't have," says Smokey. "Smokey" lost track of his family years ago. He is among dozens that come to the Hope House Outreach Center to get a free meal for dinner before disappearing into the night.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Shreveport and the Hope House are working together to help homeless veterans. The Hope House estimates there are about 1,000 homeless people in the Shreveport-Bossier area. According to the VA, about half of them are veterans suffering from some type of mental illness. Experts say mental illnesses from the war or not being able to find a job contributes to homelessness. "Some people suffer from mental illnesses such as paranoia and schizophrenia which prevent them from being in groups," says Hope House Outreach Coordinator Kristi Beirbaum.

Beirbaum says while there are plenty of resources for veterans in the ArkLaTex, the major challenge is finding the veterans and convincing them to accept help from the resources.

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