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Wisconsin Homeless Veterans, By The Hundreds, Still Need Housing Assistance

Milwaukee Initiative Executive Director Says Many Don't Come Forward

Donated mattresses in Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative warehouse
Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Wisconsin’s largest non-government effort to help homeless veterans continues to see requests for aid come in by the hundreds each year.

The Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative is a nonprofit founded and run by veterans. It helped nearly 350 vets get into housing in 2015, and the number appears to be nearly the same this year, said the organization’s executive director, Kirsten Sobieski.

She said government programs don’t help everyone.

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“So many veterans fall through the cracks. Not everybody has access to the same thing,” Sobieski said. “So even though there are programs in place for veterans to receive vouchers for housing, a lot of them we’re serving are not eligible for vouchers.”

Some veterans may not qualify for government housing vouchers due to suddenly losing a job or becoming a victim of domestic violence, Sobieski said. A key challenge remains getting more landlords to accept homeless vets as renters.

Gauging how many more veterans still need housing is challenging, Sobieski said.

“So many of them are sleeping in cars. So many of them are staying out of the public places where people tend to see homeless individuals during the day and in the evening,” she said. “There’s a pride factor. A lot people that are homeless do not want people to know that.”

Sobieski spoke as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett helped deliver $5,000 worth of donated mattresses, box springs and bedding to the initiative’s office and warehouse in West Allis. The initiative relies heavily on donations.

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