Peggy Fox, WUSA January 14, 2016 – Arlington County has ended veteran homelessness, hitting the county’s goal for the start of 2016.
“It’s just what I needed. They answered my prayers so I couldn’t ask for no more,” said 65-year-old Ricky Andrews as he turned the key to his new apartment. Andrews finally has a roof over his head after being homeless for five years.
Andrews is an Army veteran and says his service in Korea that taught him how to survive on the streets, sleeping where ever he could find a dry place.
“I’d go to abandoned building, or some porch or a condemned building of something like that. Even cardboard boxes,” Andrews said.
He also would try to find a car to sleep in or would settle for stretching out underneath a truck to keep dry.
He knows exactly what landed him there.
“I got incarcerated, locked up. And lose my place for not going to work. Drinking and drugging, ” Andrews said.
Ayana Bellamy with the nonprofit A-Span, which seeks to end homelessness in Arlington county, has worked with Andrews for years. Because of his diabetes, they needed to move fast.
“I was really worried because his health started failing. He started having more appointments with the VA and that’s when we knew it was a serious issue. We had to get him housing or he would most likely die on the streets,” Bellamy said.
With his declining health, no home, and an addiction problem, he was ready to give up himself. But A-Span turned him around.
“It a daily struggle for me. It’s never over for me,” Andrews said.
With the county’s Housing First model, services like mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment, wrap around the client.
“When people get a roof over their head, they want to do other things to stabilize themselves. They Just need a little bit of help,” Akeria Brown with Arlington County Department of Human Services said.
Ricky Andrews is now focused on living a clean, stable and comfortable life. His only goal so far? “A rocking chair to sit in.”
Ricky Andrews moved in last July. He was one of 20 homeless veterans Arlington County identified last year. They’ve all been placed in housing.
Two new homeless veterans have now identified and the county is already working to get them housing as well. Arlington County also has a goal to end all functional homelessness in the county within ten years.