Baltimore shelters take on veteran homelessness

BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) - Homelessness is a problem that still impacts tens of thousands of veterans across the country. In Baltimore, traditional shelters are teaming with veteran organizations dedicated to helping those who have served. One of those shelters is the Helping Up Mission.

"It gave me hope at a time when I was really hopeless," says Kris Sharrar, a former airman and current Helping Up Director of Philanthropy.

Sharrar says the transition from the Air Force to civilian life was a tough one.

"I had so many good things going for me. Why would I fall into the trap of addition? Why would I take the drink? Why would I take the drug?" he asks.

After seeking help from Helping Up, Sharrar quickly learned that he's not alone. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, almost 40,000 veterans are without a place to stay. Over three quarters live in cities, which means urban shelters say many veterans come through the door.

"We are going deep into mental health counseling and stress counseling than ever before and I think that is particularly needed by the military veteran," Sharrar said.

Since 2011, Helping Up has partnered with the VA to provide treatment for veterans.

Sam Fuller served in the Coast Guard and says after losing his job, things spiraled out of control.

"Who's going to hire someone in dirty clothes? Who's going to hire someone who hasn't had a shower or shaved?" he asks. Fuller says staying at the Mission has provided a foundation to build on.

According to the National Institute of Health, homelessness is seen more in servicemen and women partly because they are more likely to suffer from traumatic brain injury and PTSD. If a veteran is abusing opioids for pain, it says that risk multiplies by ten.

Through the VA, veterans can stay at the Helping Up Mission for up to a year participating in its long-term treatment program.

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