The battle to end homelessness among veterans in South Florida

Millions spent while veteran homelessness lowers
Posted at 6:33 PM, Dec 20, 2016

They served our country and now some are out on the streets. 

Veterans who are homeless in our part of South Florida is the war some former servicemen and women are going through and your tax dollars are being used as ammunition to fight it.

Revealing the small shack he’s lived in for the past six months, Leroy Rolle of West Palm Beach said, "Yeah, it's a means to an end.” 

An Army veteran, Rolle is now homeless in his 60s.

He said the hardest part of being homeless is, "No facilities, no water, no nothing."

According to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, Rolle is one of more than 200 homeless military veterans stretching from Palm Beach County to Indian River County. 

The Stand Down House in Lake Worth is an organization helping homeless veterans like Rolle who is trying to move into temporary housing.

Funding that effort comes from donations and in many cases, your wallet.

While the Stand Down House is a non-profit organization, the West Palm Beach VA also helps hundreds of homeless vets and it depends on big funding, coming from your tax dollars.

A West Palm Beach VA spokeswoman said $3.1 million in federal funds has been used in 2016 for programs helping homeless veterans.

A VA spokeswoman said there's a 27 percent decrease in veteran homelessness since this point in 2015.

Local Air Force veteran Kandyss Touchstone gives perspective as to why that number isn’t decreasing by a larger percentage. 

"I never wanted to exploit the name veteran. So I was always scared to say, 'I need help, I'm a veteran.' That just doesn't sound right to me," said Touchstone.

Addicted to alcohol, Touchstone enrolled in rehab in Palm Beach County.

When rehab finished, she swallowed her pride and used the resources so many homeless veterans don't.

"I can plan ahead now instead of just for today and I know where I'm going now versus I didn't know where I was going before," said Touchstone.

Even with success stories like Touchstones, one in four homeless Americans are military veterans.

In 2015, the Obama Administration vowed to end veteran homelessness. A West Palm Beach VA spokeswoman said the initiative led to increased staffing for homeless programs.

The battle to stay off the streets is still real for Rolle. "If somebody could help me I could be rescued. I know for a fact that I could march again," said Rolle.

Getting Rolle possible help means a lot to Stand Down House director Roy Foster.

"To see a veteran in that condition right there as he's living, it keeps life in prospective how grateful I am today but even more grateful that we are in position to assist this veteran and his family," said Foster.

Not every homeless veteran recovery story ends in instant success. Landlords for temporary housing can choose who to take, or not to take.

Rolle is working on clearing up some things from his past to be eligible.

A new battle for him, while the war against veteran homelessness marches on.