Veteran, families with children homeless rates down in Kansas

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Three years ago army veteran Tom Bombardier found himself left with nothing while waiting for disability after a back injury.

"I ended up on the street it was hard to get help. Eventually I came to the Topeka Rescue Mission and joined a program and am now employed here," said Bombardier.

Now working the front desk of the Topeka Rescue Mission, Bombardier is part of the 46 percent drop in veteran homelessness in Kansas this year. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also reports a 12.9 percent overall decrease in the state's homeless rate.

Topeka Rescue Mission Director Berry Feaker says the decrease is high, but estimates can't account for everyone.

"It could be that you go to a homeless camp, you know where homeless people could be but they're not there at the time you go to camp, and so they don't get counted. So it doesn't get a true reflection of the numbers when you do a one day count," explained Feaker.

He says veterans make up 10 to 24 percent of the Rescue Mission's population.

"They're supposed to be strong warriors and to say you need help is saying a lot," said Bombardier.

The shelter's numbers are down this year, but mostly in families with children. Feaker attributes that to recent initiatives.

"We're working with landlords and different programs to rehouse people, and another reason we believe our numbers are a little lower this year is that we started an effective mentoring program called the dare to dream entry program," he said.

The hope is that focusing on prevention means homeless people like Bombardier won't need this type of helping hand again.