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Sioux Falls VA Health Care System Launches Campaign to Help Homeless Veterans

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The Sioux Falls Veterans Affairs Health Care System is helping to start a national outreach program for homeless veterans and those at risk of being homeless. The campaign has a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

The Sioux Falls Veterans Affairs is one of the 28 Veterans Affairs facilities across the country to host a kickoff event in October. Officials said more than 300 known homeless veterans are in Sioux Falls and its surrounding rural areas.

"Part of this outreach is to work with our civic community partners, the Veteran's Center and other areas and agencies who do come in contact with veterans who are at risk or are, in fact, homeless, and reach out, talk to them, touch them, serve them, prior to them becoming homeless," said Patrick Kelly, Director of the Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
Some things the program will provide are health care re-entry programs for incarcerated veterans, employment programs and counseling services.

Those working with the program encourage anyone, whether it be an individual or with an organization, to help out in any way possible.

"In Sioux Falls, the people who are homeless are kind of a hidden issue. You don't see people on the streets advertising that they need a place to live, and so people need to be aware that there is this issue," said Shireen Ranschau with Sioux Falls Housing.

Veterans Services Coordinator Chris Nelson said being a veteran himself, he can relate to what they are going through, and his goal is to serve as a role model for them.

"It's difficult at times to really see what's going on, and not be able to do anything about it. But I think it's really building trust, and it's building small steps of engagement with these men and women, and getting them to re-focus on what is important in their lives," he said.
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