Holyoke pledges to end veterans homelessness - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Holyoke pledges to end veterans homelessness

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HOLYOKE, MA (WSHM) -

This week, Mayor Alex Morse spent time in Washington D.C., with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Morse was part of a discussion to put an end to veterans homelessness in our country.

Holyoke officials told CBS 3 that there are several things being done to end veterans homelessness in their city, including looking at building new housing for homeless vets.

But first, they said they have to know how many there are in the city.

"Even one veteran that is homeless is one too many in our community," said Morse.

During his visit to our nation's capitol, Morse pledged to have Holyoke take part in the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness.

The goal is to have homeless veterans off the street by 2015.

In his city, Morse said vets typically make their way to the services center inside the War Memorial building.

"Sometimes we'll have homeless veterans that come into the office and by law they're able to find a place to sleep that night, even if it's a hotel," said Morse. "We've been working to make sure we can get them permanent housing."

"In Western Mass, we have a pretty extensive homeless network," said James Mahoney, director of veterans' services in Holyoke.

Mahoney has been working with veterans in the area for decades and said the area benefits from having the VA hospital in Leeds, as well as the soldiers home in Holyoke.

"Western Mass is fairly spread out," said Mahoney. "They're more than willing to work with any of the veterans agents from the multiple towns to help get these people in when they need to be in."

Mahoney said there are a little over 200 beds available between the different locations, but there is more that can be done through federal programs.

Both he and Morse said the biggest thing the public can do is help to identify a veteran.

"Often times, life is so fast paced for all of us that we just keep walking and we don't realize who we're passing," said Morse. "So I think the message is to just take that in and what can we do, not just as elected officials, but as regular residents to help this problem."

Mahoney said progress on this issue is shown in the initiatives.

When he first started, a 15-year plan to end veterans homelessness was introduced.

Now, cities involved in the mayors challenge believe it can be done within the next year.

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