Help for Homeless Veterans Shelter

June 26, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

Tonight, it is expected that more than 200,000 homeless U.S. veterans will take to another night of sleeping on the streets, under bridges or in temporary shelters.  But, there is one local shelter that will soon be able to provide a safer refuge for more veterans seeking a safe place to stay.

Looking today at some of the men at the Vinton shelter, one might not realize that they are the ones who fought for our country through years of conflicts and wars.  But, each week, homeless veterans of all ages seek out "A City of Refuge" in Vinton for at least one safe night off the streets.

Denise Perkins-Stigen with "A City of Refuge" says, "Most of our veterans are from the Vietnam era, but we've had some from the Korean War, World War II, Desert Storm, and we recently had one from Iraq."

800 veterans come to this homeless shelter each year, but it could be more if it was in a better condition.  "We are able to house up to 60," says Perkins-Stigen, "and this was prior to the storm and then of course since the storm we are only about to house comfortably about 25 or 30."

Exactly one year ago, "A City of Refuge" founder, Burt Stigen, sent out a plea for volunteers to help rebuild this facility, and this week - that call has been answered by 22 people with MST Ministries out of Washington state.

Mark Schaufler with MST Ministries says, "We've got our youngest volunteer that is 13, and then we go all the way up to Vietnam vets who are in their 60s."

These volunteers are measuring boards, pulling nails and building a completely new storage facility to open up more space for veterans in need of a place to stay...and these Northerners don't mind the Louisiana heat!  "We call it 'sweet sweat,' says Schaufler, "because we know they're sweat is going to go to something that matters."

Wayne Phillips is a Vietnam veteran that has been at the homeless shelter for more than a year as he recovers from cancer.  He says this group means much more to these vets than a week of work.  "I consider them angels," says Phillips, "because they're helping us."

There are plans in the works for as early as November to build a new homeless facility for these veterans - one that could house up to 200 people at a time.