JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 38,000 veterans across the country are experiencing homelessness.
That number includes veterans in the Tri-Cities. The Johnson City Housing Authority is working to get that number down and make sure veterans have an affordable place to live.
“There is a great need. We have over 1,00 people on our full waiting list right now so the need is just astronomical, said JCHA CEO and Executive Director, Sam Edwards. “We’re doing everything that we can to provide more affordable housing.”
The JCHA has a strong focus on veterans and youth aging out of foster care.
“We have a program within the Johnson City Housing Authority in which we focus on that, make that a priority throughout several of our properties here so we wanted to continue that trend,” Edwards said.
Edwards says the JCHA is also intentional about the units they build, making sure they’re efficient.
“It’s one thing to provide affordable housing but if you’re getting into a place and you have extreme utility bills- that’s not helpful either,” Edwards said.
For people like army and navy veteran, Paul Martinez, Jr., that work pays off.
“I’m pretty lucky to have it,” Martinez, Jr. told News Channel 11. “I couldn’t find housing- a decent house, price-wise.”
About a year ago, he was basically living out of his car.
Martinez, Jr. was drafted to Vietnam during his freshman year of college. He helped build the U.S.S. Camden and became a sergeant.
“I finished my college with the GI bill, enlisted in the navy again as an officer, served three years and after Vietnam, you couldn’t get a promotion,” Martinez, Jr. explained.
Paul ended up in Colorado then Arizona. He was in a motorcycle accident and came to the Tri-Cities to be near his daughter.
“I went to the Johnson City Housing Authority, filled out an application,” he explained. “I was living out of my car basically.”
He was able to get into one of the brand-new apartments on East Watauga Avenue about a year ago.
“Rent is affordable and it’s a really clean place,” he shared.
The JCHA received a $500,000 grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Authority for the second phase of the one and two-bedroom apartment complex Paul lives in. The ribbon cutting was held just a few weeks ago.
If you’re a veteran in need of housing, visit the JCHA website.
Let us know about a veteran, veteran topic, or issue you think deserves recognition for the ongoing Veterans Voices series.