Last summer, Ritchey had two women who were 89. There's a lot of dementia and an increase in mental-health issues. He does acknowledge that things have gotten much better for vets.

When he opened almost 10 years ago, Ritchey called right away, but it took a year for anyone from the Veterans Administration to show up. In three years, they provided no housing for any of his clients.

That was under George W. Bush. Things changed under Obama. But Ritchey insists there are still homeless veterans — he sees new ones just about every day — and he doesn't understand why officials are tossing around words like "eradicate."

Charles Ackles, who served in the Army in the '40s, continues to live in a shelter.
Amy Silverman
Charles Ackles, who served in the Army in the '40s, continues to live in a shelter.

Even though he's in the thick of things geographically — and does work with CASS, the VA, and other organizations — Ritchey operates independently, saying he's different and able to be more free with his opinions because his organization subsists entirely on private donations.

He was critical of McCain, and now he's criticizing Stanton and Obama for what he calls their hyperbolic description of the program they've launched.

"If you want to say we've identified 222 people — and this process is in place — that's great. Say that," Ritchey says. "But don't say you've ended the problem for chronically homeless veterans. It's dishonest and then people can't trust you."

New Times provided Stanton spokesman Christian Palmer with a copy of the Justa Center e-newsletter, which Palmer shared with Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, the group directly involved in the current housing program, called Project H3 Vets.

Serviss says she'd never heard of the Justa Center or Ritchey (she says her staff had) but put a call into him immediately.

"Ultimately, that's a great example of how we've been responsive to the community. When we hear about somebody who has engaged with somebody as a . . . homeless veteran, we have the resources in place so we can be responsive to them," she says. "We're going to now build a relationship with the Justa Center."

Seth Scott, the mayor's policy director, also had not heard of Justa. He says he understands the concern about hyperbole, but he says Phoenix deserves a lot of credit for creating a bold program that already serves as a model for others, including the Maricopa Association of Governments, which serves communities in metro Phoenix.

Housing First, the program implemented through Project H3 Vets, has a retention rate of about 94 percent, Scott and Serviss say, much higher than previous programs that were tried.

"We don't ever want to pretend that this is a problem that's going away," Scott says. But he says people are so convinced that it's impossible to end homelessness that they need hope — and Phoenix's efforts provide that.

And if someone like Scott Ritchey challenges these efforts?

"We've now given people a way to hold us accountable," Scott says.

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5 comments
alfred.jones
alfred.jones

My name is A.J. and I am a navigator for the Veteran Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia. When I heard that chronically homeless veterans had all been housed in Arizona, I was in awe. Having been in homeless outreach I know just how difficult a task that is. I have sent many e-mails to various organizations in Arizona and no one has responded. I would like get a better understanding of what Arizona does and how I can implement some of those same tactics here in Philadelphia. I am a army veteran and formerly homeless veteran as well, so I have been on both sides of the fence, and have also been incarcerated. I am trying to network and learn as much as I can , because helping veterans is my job and it consumes me sometimes. Lets end veteran homelessness country wide. Lets burn the candle on both ends and I will meet you all in the middle. My e-mail address is Alfred.jones@vmcenter.org. Looking forward to hearing from you and peace and be safe

HarryY
HarryY

ExpertShot is right. You're not actually contradicting anyone, Amy. They all agree that there are more homeless veterans to serve and that there is alot of hard work to do stil....yet you just want to see if you can call someone a liar so that you seem like you're doing investigative journalism...but you're not. 

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

The battle of the headlines - how stupid.  Every one of those articles, Amy, states that homeless problems still exist in Phoenix.  You should know better than anyone that headlines do not tell the story and are usually written by the marketing department.  Provide me with one quote from ONE of the stories you cite that actually makes the statement that there are no more homeless veterans in Phoenix - THEN you can write a headline like you did, which is just as bogus as the ones you cite.

rejco
rejco

Homeless Veterans are all over Phoenix; the veterans they ended homelessness for are a VERY NARROW selected few homeless veterans who met certain criteria mandates, and they were not placed into REGULAR HOUSING; they were placed into institutional settings that will most likely disrespect the veterans so much that the veterans will end-up back on the streets.

 
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