Local organization helps homeless veterans amid COVID-19 outbreak

With Harris County's Stay Home, Work Safe order, a local organization is reminding us that not everyone has a home.

"It shows the necessity, the essential function of who we are and what we do," said Oudrey Hervey, Executive Director of U.S.VETS -- Houston.

The non-profit helps homeless veterans with everything from counseling to jobs to housing.

Hervey says, at any given time, they're about 400 veterans living in their transitional housing center in Midtown.

"The number of veterans that we provide that has been fairly consistent. There's been a small bump," he added.

In the last week, they took 55 disabled veterans into their housing program.

Hervey expects the number of veterans needing help to increase in the next couple of weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Since the outbreak, they're facing new challenges, especially since more than half of their clients are over 65 years old.

"We're taking the necessary steps to ensure that the people here are safe and the individual [who] is coming into our community is also safe," Hervey explained.

The organization is using more cleaning supplies and cleaning more frequently.

While intake for emergency housing has not slowed down, intake staff is down to a third of its normal size. The organization is doing that to limit possible exposure to staff and clients.

Also, the intake process has added steps like checking temperatures.

U.S. VETS - Houston is also putting more veterans in hotel rooms for health reasons. That costs about $55 a night.

As for meals, the organization is no longer allowing volunteers to come into the shelter for fear of COVID-19 exposure. They are now relying on the veterans and staff to prepare meals and on monetary donations and the Houston Food Bank for food.

Additionally, Hervey reports they are not allowing in-kind donations to be dropped off at this time to limit exposure. The organization reports it costs about $20 to provide three meals to a veteran, $2,500 for 100 sets of fresh clothes and toiletries for veterans, and $25,000 for emergency housing for two veterans families for three months.

Luckily, Hervey says, the veterans like the Houston are resilient.

"It doesn't matter if it's Ike, Harvey, coronavirus or whatever is coming next. We're resilient and we're going to push through, but we definitely appreciate any donations that the community can provide," Hervey concluded.