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Veterans among the homeless
Local activists work to curb the problem in Liberty Co.
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About 30-40 percent of the homeless in the United States are veterans, and Hinesville is no exception, according to volunteers who work to provide homeless men and women shelter, proper meals, job-search assistance and spiritual and transitional support.
St. Philips’ Episcopal Church Deacon, Liberty County Homeless Coalition member and Vietnam veteran Chad Chaffee, Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless CEO Dr. Alicia Kirk and KHC program coordinator Charli Shearer told the Courier this week “We have a problem.”
The three dedicated social activists say most of the homeless veterans they’re seeing are aging Vietnam veterans, some who are dealing with serious health issues and are on fixed, low incomes. Some of these older vets still want and need to work but can’t find employment, Chaffee said.
“We are seeing some Gulf War veterans and we are seeing an increase in our younger vets, those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Shearer said. “They all have varying reasons for ending up homeless.”
Chaffee added National Guard members and reservists also are joining the ranks of homeless veterans. Some of these men and women have found they no longer have civilian jobs once their tours are up since many businesses have folded due to the poor economy, he said.
Chaffee and Shearer described one client in particular, a Vietnam veteran Shearer referred to as “Mr. G.” because he asked not to be identified.
“He’s embarrassed by the situation he’s in,” Shearer said.
Shearer said Mr. G. served in the Air Force as an engine mechanic on F-4 fighter jets.
“He’s currently living in his car,” she said.
Chaffee and Shearer said Mr. G. has advanced technical skills, but because the F-4s are considered obsolete, their client cannot find work in his field.
“Younger people coming out of college today are more apt to be trained than older people (in this economy),” Chaffee said.
“His monthly income is only slightly over $600,” Shearer said. “Everything he owns is in his car or in small storage facility he’s struggling to continue paying for.”
The Kirk Healing Center has two homes, the Shippey House for single women and the Dodd Place for single men. The Dodd Place is “overflowing,” according to Shearer, and so they could not house Mr. G.
“We were able to give him a few nights of rest at a hotel,” she said. Mr. G. currently is parking his car on KHC property until they can find him permanent lodging.
Kirk said one of the center’s volunteers also tried over a period of two days to contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of Mr. G.
“We have not yet gotten a response,” she said.
Chaffee commended Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, an Army veteran, for addressing the problem of homelessness in Liberty County. The mayor holds a Thanksgiving benefit each November to raise funds for the Liberty County Homeless Coalition.
Local pastors Hermon Scott and Douglas Harn founded the coalition in December 2008. Scott serves as coalition president and Harn is coalition vice president. The coalition collaborates with the city, area churches, businesses and non-profit organizations, Chaffee explained.
Shearer said the city received a grant to help the homeless by funding emergency shelter services but said that money has been spent. According to Thursday’s city council agenda, Hinesville’s Community Development Department requested council’s approval to apply for a $47,000 Department of Community Affairs grant for homelessness prevention and related services. If council members authorize the grant application and the city receives the grant, the city would match the amount by 100 percent with general funds, according to the March 17 council meeting agenda.
Kirk listed three ways business people, community leaders and residents can help the homeless.
“We’d like to see the business community allow us the use of their (unused) properties (to house the homeless),” she said. “We also need monetary donations to help with emergency needs. And we need people to donate household goods, furniture and clothing to the K&K Thrift Shop.”
The thrift shop is at 4356 E. Oglethorpe Highway across from the Liberty County School System bus yard.
Shearer said landlords can accept homeless tenants, like Mr. G., under Section 8 of the United States Housing Act. The act authorizes rental housing assistance to private landlords who reserve “some or all of the units in a building for low-income tenants” and utility-bill assistance to low-income households, according to Wikipedia.
 The website also summarized a Section 8 program titled Veterans Administration Supported Housing (VASH), which gives vouchers to eligible homeless veterans.
Shearer and Chafee said the Kirk Healing Center pays just over $240 a month to help one homeless person while HUD pays more than $800 a month to help support one homeless individual.
“If we get assistance from the community, we will continue to do what we do best,” Kirk said.
For more information, visit or call 877-7225 or 368-9154.

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