Homelessness in Shreveport-Bossier: Up close and personal

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - According to numbers from Shreveport's Hope House, a one stop resource center for the homeless, at any given time there are about 1,000 homeless people on the streets of Shreveport/Bossier. According to the Overton Brooks VAMC, roughly 40% of them are veterans.

"There are a bunch of them on the street," says one Vietnam-era veteran who goes by the name "Smoky." Smoky has been living on the streets of Shreveport for more than a year. He says he's not homeless, but that he just doesn't have a house.

He took KSLA News 12's Summer Knowles and Doug Warner to the place he considers home. It was a tent buried in the woods.

"I do alright," said Smoky. "I know there are people worse off than me.It's just a temporary home. I'll allow for that."

Smoky is considered chronically homeless. In fact, the Hope House actually ranks the top 100 homeless in our area. Those who top their list are the most vulnerable. Smoky is number 21.

A couple of nights a week the Hope House's street outreach team hits the streets to check on area homeless and to remind them of the services that are available to them. But a lot of homeless people suffer some type of mental illness, which complicates things.

Although a lot of homeless people will tell you homelessness is a choice, but Street Outreach Coordinator Kristi Bierbaum couldn't disagree more. "It's a consequence of a system of their situation. Smokey didn't just wake up one day and say I'm just going to go live outside."

Although Smokey maintains that he is content living where he his, every now and then if you listen hard enough he hints at a desire to change that. "I miss having my own place. But, if I ever get straightened up to where I have my life going again, I'd still be on the move."

The Hope House is located at 762 Austin Place in Shreveport. There number is (318) 220-7649. Meanwhile the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center has a lot of programs in place to help veterans who are struggling physically and/or mentally. The VAMC is located at 510 East Stoner Avenue in Shreveport. The number is (318) 221-841.

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