Earl Harris spent nine years in the Army as a military police officer. In June, he moved into in a 10-by-10-foot storage unit — small and cluttered but affordable on his $790 monthly disability payments and better than the parking garage where he slept before. He believes he’s among many people in the area who live the same way, stuffing their lives into dark, climate-controlled cubes to avoid the worst of the weather.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs offers help to many veterans struggling with homelessness, but not veterans like Harris. He was dishonorably discharged, disqualifying him from receiving VA assistance.
“I’ve tried many, many times to get help,” he said. “The VA turns me down every time.”
On Aug. 19, however, anti-homelessness advocate Justin Beale arrived with a solution.
Beale works for Welcome House, a Covington-based network of shelters and outreach programs dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness. Sometimes that means providing shelter; sometimes it means taking people aboard their Medical Outreach RV and giving them free check-ups.
The day he spoke to Harris, it meant helping him sign up for a HUD program that could help him secure stable housing for the first time since 1999.
“He’ll be going through a federally funded program through HUD that’s specifically for people who are chronically homeless like him, so it’s set up in order to support him,” Beale said. “So it’s set up in order to support him, and hopefully he’ll be in there for the rest of his life.”
Harris signed a lease the next day.
Beale hopes to help other veterans experiencing homelessness in the Covington area, including those who — like Harris — may not be eligible for VA assistance but could qualify for other aid.
The Welcome House Medical Outreach RV will spend the next several months visiting every library in Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties in search of people to help. Anyone interested in getting in touch with the organization can do so online.