County supervisors aim to help homeless veterans

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The Board of Supervisors today unanimously agreed to the formation of a committee to identify strategies for getting Riverside County's estimated 900 homeless military veterans off the streets and possibly back into the workforce.

Supervisor Jeff Stone brought forward the Veteran Assistance Leadership of Riverside County (VALOR) concept, which he hopes will lead to the expansion of existing programs and the addition of others aimed at providing support for vets, in the form of job options, drug rehabilitation and other efforts toward social normalization.

"It is a black eye for our country, state and county to have veterans -- who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms -- to be discarded and left panhandling or suffering alone with substance abuse and other traumas," Stone said.

Under VALOR, a "no veterans left behind policy" will be implemented using all available public and private resources, according to Stone.

"We need to find those who want to be helped," he said. "We can find them compassionate care, health counseling, whatever is needed to get them back on track again. It is honorable that we take care of our veterans."

The supervisor noted that the county's veterans' services agency has three full-time staff members, while neighboring San Bernardino County has a dozen.

He recommended, and the board concurred, that staff from eight county agencies join the U.S. Veterans Administration and private nonprofit veterans organizations in formulating strategies to expand assistance to homeless vets.

County CEO Jay Orr suggested a number of county employees who could be of service, including Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser, a former U.S. Army major; retired California National Guard Col. Tom Freeman, the county's foreign trade commissioner; and Purchasing and Fleet Services Director Bob Howdyshell, a retired U.S. Navy captain.

Orr said a report on the committee's formation would be returned for the board's consideration in 60 days.

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