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VA sets 2015 as deadline to end veteran homelessness

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AMARILLO – For more than 60,000 of America's war heroes, shelters are the closest thing to a home. The Department of Veteran Affairs wants to change that by 2015.

The Amarillo VA Hospital met with panhandle non-profits Wednesday discuss how to meet that goal. A goal that the VA's Homeless Program Manager, Jenny Sartini, believes is very possible to make.

"I didn't at first," she said. "But I do now."

The idea behind the goal is that there is already enough help for veterans out there, they just need to get connected to it.

"The community is what we really need the input from," Sartini said. "We couldn't do it without them. We just don't have the funds."

The majority of homeless veterans served in Vietnam, and the VA admits those heroes were not given the support they deserved when they came home. Many vets from that era still hold a grudge, and do not trust the VA to help them.

But Marshall Green, a Vietnam veteran and Employment Representative with the Texas Veterans Commission, says times have changed.

"It's really light years from what it was 20 years ago," Green said. "I'm a patient here myself and it really is great."

Green says the main problem facing homeless veterans is they don't know all the benefits that are available to them. That's something that the VA's Homeless Summit aims to help.

"We really need to know what we're missing out on in the community," Sartini said. "Fifty percent of our referrals come from the community, so that's really what this is for."

The VA will compile all the information from today's meeting and use it to make sure they can refer any veteran to get the help they need, something they hope will restore faith in veterans who have given up on getting the help they deserve.

"We want them to give us a second chance," Sartini said.

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