County works with Department of Veteran Affairs to get valley vets off the streets

County works with Department of Veteran Affairs to get valley vets off the streets

COACHELLA, Calif. - Mark Weber, the economic development manager for the city of Coachella, spent the day visiting parts of the city many people turn a blind eye to.  

"Sometimes people, you and I, we drive right by these areas and we don't really know where the homeless are," Weber said.

Teams formed throughout the county Wednesday to survey each city's homeless population, with the goal of identifying how many U.S. military veterans live on the streets.

"There's no reason we should have homeless veterans.  That's really a shame, that's really a national tragedy.  So we need to address that," Weber said. 

Led by Sgt. Tim White of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, a veteran himself, along with a team of officers, Weber visited homeless encampments across Coachella.  

At one, they found a man named Ken, who in the Air Force for two years. Among his few possessions, a U.S. Flag, draped over a tree in his makeshift home. 

The survey is part of a plan created by the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs in 2010 to meet the national goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

By finding the number of homeless vets and the status of their physical and mental health, the VA hopes to determine what additional resources are needed to achieve that goal. 

"I think a lot of people don't know there are services available to them. It's important for us to reach out to them and let them know there are services, and reach out to them as fellow vets not as police officers," Sgt. White said.  

In addition to conducting the survey they also handed out bags containing essential items like hygiene kits, food and water in addition to information specifically for homeless vets so they can connect with the VA and local services. 

"They have served our country, the least we can do is get a roof over their head," Weber said.

Last year 300 veterans were counted as transients in the county. 

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