Downtown Hotel Serves As Home for Vets

In the shadow of Minute Maid Park downtown, an old hotel built back in 1913 is helping homeless veterans find their way back to independent living. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, a unique program has reached around 600 homeless vets over the past seven years.

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About a block from the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park, the old DeGeorge Hotel along Preston has turned into a place 100 veterans call home. The DeGeorge At Union Station as its known, is a permanent housing facility for vets, a place where many of them get back on their feet after bouts with alcohol, drugs, joblessness and post traumatic stress disorder. Community Director Lynda Greene says homelessness among veterans is a serious problem.

"Nationwide now they're saying one of every four homeless persons is a veteran, which transcribes to almost 300,000 nationwide.ξ In Houston, the homeless population is between 14,000 to 15,000 and a little more than one third of that figure in Houston are veterans."

Green points to a white board on the wall of her cramped office, with a list of several dozen veterans on a waiting list to get a room at the DeGeorge. It's hard to get into the facility, and once you do, you have to follow the rules.

"No overnight guests. No smoking in the building. You have designated smoking areas outside. No drugs or alcohol while you live here and we do random drug-testing. So we have boundaries and we have some perimeters. For those who were in the military, sometimes that's what helps to keep them, for lack of better expressions, in line, because there are boundaries."ξξ

"My name is David Miller. I did four years in the United States Marine Corps."

Miller is in his 40's and has had a hard time adjusting to life outside the military. Since he's been at the DeGeorge, he's managed to get himself back on track toward an independent life.

"I've been here since August of 2005 and this place has helped me tremendously with the different programs they have. I've got a place to stay, food. They provide you with basically any kind of, what's that, food, clothing and shelter. It is very, very good for helping you do that."ξ

The DeGeorge at Union Station is funded through the Houston Housing Authority and HUD. Residents are required to pay a third of their monthly income or a minimum of $50 for their rooms. An employment center is located at the facility and many residents have jobs.ξ

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