Austin mayor vows to end veteran homelessness

Austin mayor accepts challenge to end veteran homelessness

AUSTIN -- Veteran Lincoln Pruitt is grateful to have a place to call home. After serving in the Army for six years with a tour in Germany, he found the country he left wasn't the same when he returned home.

"You can't get a job in some places, your fiance or your wife that you were with is gone with someone else after your long tour of duty. You come home with the PTSD, the depression, and that's hard to deal with civilian life," said Pruitt.

After three failed marriages and losing everything he had, Pruitt reached a breaking point in 2009.

"I kind of went over the edge with the drug and alcohol use and attempted suicide. And they shipped me from Big Springs VA Hospital to Temple Domiciliary," he said.

About a year later, he was released and became one of the thousands of people homeless in Austin.

According to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) in January 2014, Austin had 2,000 homeless people in the city; 176 of them are veterans.

"As a veteran myself and as an American, I believe we owe a debt to those brave men and women, frankly a debt that can never be repaid," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

On Wednesday afternoon, Leffingwell and members of various organizations working to end homelessness accepted a nationwide challenge to end veteran homelessness by 2015 by pulling together resources. More than 225 communities across the country have taken the pledge.

"The City of Austin's role is to support them and provide seed money," said Leffingwell.

According to ECHO, from 2011 until 2014 the number of homeless veterans in Austin dropped by 66 percent. The organization Front Steps announced it received a $3 million grant from the VA to help fight veteran homelessness, so leaders believe their goal is attainable.

Members of ECHO say the biggest challenges are Austin's lack of housing and landlords who accept vouchers and permanent supportive housing developments, similar to the one Pruitt currently lives in. Their hope is the mayor's challenge will open more doors for veterans in need of a place to call home.


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