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Group looks to break cycle of homelessness for D.C. veterans

Monday - 11/12/2012, 6:35pm  ET

Randi Martin, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Gerard Thomas, a case manager who helps D.C.'s homeless veterans, knows the day-to-day struggle of homeless veterans as well as anyone.

The Vietnam veteran was chronically homeless for about 30 years before being one of the first people to get a housing voucher from Pathways to Housing D.C., a non-profit that provides housing and other services to the chronically homeless in Washington, D.C.

"Pathways found me and helped me get into housing," says Thomas.

But Pathways did more than that. They eventually hired him.

Thomas is now a case manager who spends his days finding people going through some of the same problems he was facing not that long ago.

Pathways is part of a national effort, with the Veterans Administration, to house homeless veterans this fall. Their goal is to house 50 veterans in the District by the end of November.

"The V.A. is committed to ending Veterans homelessness by 2015 so this program is one of many programs that the V.A. has implemented to make that a reality," says Christy Respress, Executive Director of Programs at Pathways.

But finding a place to live is just the first step.

"The housing ends the homelessness, but then the services are there to help people move on to the next step," says Respress.

The non-profit's Supportive Services for Veterans Families program has also vocational and rehabilitation counseling, job training programs, health care services, financial planning and more.

"We want to break that cycle of homelessness," says Respress.

If you're interested in helping Pathways you can call Hannah Zollman at 202-529- 2927 ext. 130, or by emailing hzollman@pathwaysdc.org. More housing and donated household goods are always needed.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)