SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Efforts to end homelessness among veterans took a major step forward with a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.
Being celebrated was the opening of the first Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team, or H-PACT, at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport.
A big crowd turned out at the clinic in Building 5 at 3000 Knight St. in Shreveport, a facility that opened its doors Oct. 2.
The H-PACT facility offers “... exams, treatment and specialty referrals in a welcoming and caring environment to veterans who are at risk for or struggling with homelessness,” the VA says in a statement.
Chocka Sullivan, a licensed clinical social worker, said a major feature of the H-PACT clinic is increased walk-in access to medical care for veterans enrolled at Overton Brooks.
The clinic falls under the umbrella of the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program, which now offers comprehensive services to meet veterans’ housing and medical needs.
“It will take care of not only their health care needs but also any mental health needs, case management needs," Sullivan explained. "And our ultimate goal is for them to get housed.”
The VA’s homeless program at Overton Brooks already is credited with saving the lives of countless veterans over the years.
Leonard Townsend counts himself among them.
“If I hadn’t gotten help in 2009, I’d probably either be in jail or dead.”
Within a year, Townsend beat his drug addiction, got off the streets and began working for the VA. Eight years later, he’s part of the H-PACT team.
VA officials say there are 250-300 homeless veterans in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.
And while there have been VA services in place, the H-PACT team literally will mean one-stop shopping for veterans seeking help.
“This is amazing. It’s a blessing,” said Teddy George, a homeless veteran who turned out for the open house.
He explained that the timing couldn’t be better as he tries to get off the streets after years and once again find a place he can call home.