Editor's Note

Zero anything

We took what's really a snapshot look at homeless veterans this week, and I recalled when the Obama administration announced it was going to house all veterans.

A program was put into place almost five years ago. Cities with populations similar to Tucson—a large veterans community and number of social service—were selected to be part of this original program. In Tucson there's no doubt the program has been successful.

Having Mayor Jonathan Rothschild rally the community and its social service agencies to work together has certainly helped. We're lucky to have such organizations, but I'd go further to say we are lucky to have people like Abbie Lenhardt in our community, too.

Yes, she's facing a 30-day eviction from Tucson House, and hopefully something will come together for her before the end of those 30 days. We're counting on it. She shrugs it off, saying she's prepared to go back to the streets. She's embracing that idea. It's understandable. But perhaps we're lucky to have Lenhardt be part of our community because we need to learn how to better serve the chronically homeless.

All case managers handle their work differently, and expectations that differ, but at times I wonder when talking to homeless advocates, if we need to change our approach. Those who are chronically homeless cannot operate the same way others do—we can't have that expectation that at all times, with a lot of work, you can conquer substance abuse and mental illness all at once. It just doesn't happen. Other cities have developed programs that provide housing with supports as needed, but no strings attached and maybe that's the direction we need to go next. Housing. Just giving people a place to live with the support needed to do so going beyond the $195 a month in food stamps. Then see what happens next.

Sometimes relieving the stress of street life is all it takes, but nothing is instantaneous and often one can only pull their bootstraps so far before they break.

— Mari Herreras, mherreras@tucsonweekly.com