Work continues on renovations to a building in downtown Johnson City to meet the needs of homeless veterans and other at-risk tenants. As Assistant News Editor Rex Barber reported recently, local businessman Ken Snowden has purchased the Volunteer Building at the corner of South Boone Street and Wilson Avenue and is turning it into a 28-unit apartment complex. Plans are to first offer 12 one-bedroom units, as well as three apartments for tenants with disabilities.
This project is an important step in providing affordable housing for veterans who are just one or two lost paychecks away from being homeless. While studies show strides are being made to curtail chronic homelessness for most demographic groups, it is still a significant problem for veterans. And homelessness is not just a problem among elderly veterans.
Officials with the Alliance to End Homelessness say younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are now showing up in homeless shelters. That’s why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development decided last year to award the Johnson City Housing Authority 25 new Section 8 housing vouchers for homeless veterans and veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Homelessness is a problem that requires a systematic approach to solve, particularly in regard to the needs of veterans. Mental illness and substance abuse long have been seen as major causes of homelessness. While those are certainly factors, they are not the only reasons veterans are left homeless.
One way to truly welcome home veterans who are having difficulty readjusting to civilian life is to help them find affordable housing. We believe the Volunteer Building renovations will help to do that.