Part Three, When Will The Nightmares End For Our Veteran Community? ( Health and Safety Concerns)
Everyone understands the basic rule of thumb for any business about maintaining a good public image and that it should always be at the forefront of one’s responsibility as an employee, manager, or business owner. However, when it comes to purposely ignoring health and safety concerns by covering them up or outright dismissing them as a part of the environment, and putting band-aids on as an attempt to fix them, which in the long run only brings even a worse public image than what was trying to be covered up in the first place.
Homeless veteran, Garrett Jester, was a resident of U.S.Vets, a Houston homeless facility, where he not only witnessed, and lived through the program there, but was asked to sit on a residence committee to help identify and bring forth problems while he was there, so they could be addressed.
This series of articles is exposing these issues with first-hand evidence to show where the services don’t always have the veteran in the best interest of the funding meant to help them in the first place. Let’s get started with the basic health and safety concerns that first meet these veterans as they enter into the U.S.Vets’ facility.
According to Mr. Jester, at any given time there are approximately 60-65 homeless veterans in a GDP (Grant-Per-Diem VA funded program) located and housed by the U.S.Vets Houston Veteran Homeless Shelter, at 4640 Main Street, Houston Texas. Keep in mind that U.S.Vets is the largest non-profit organization in the nation and should lead by example, but doesn’t. Mr. Jester has reported many times the unhealthy conditions of the facility and has had little to no action from officials on this matter, he has started this series of reports to address the truth, which no one, it seems, wants to adhere to nor fix any the problems he is bringing forth. Below you will see a series of photos showing the horrible conditions of the facility itself.
Mr. Jester has an audio conversation in which he tells a U.S.Vets’ staff member in charge of local operations, prior to a walkthrough inspection, “we have cockroaches everywhere, they are coming out of everyone’s drains.” The U.S.Vets’ staff member then acknowledges the unsanitary conditions by telling him that she is aware of it, and that there have been two exterminations so far, then changes the focus on a veteran that is no longer living there. Mr. Jester clearly stays on message and informs the staff member, that he tells everyone to keep watch for them even more as the weather is turning warmer, and suggests to the staff member that they really need to get regular spraying going, but as most of the reports from residents go, the staff member states; “As far as that goes, I’ll put it on the list.” She then follows that statement with a tone of uncertainty; when she says; “I’ll ask.” Sounding as if she already knows the answer she will get, so she “will” add it to the list. Then she admits to the level of the infestation, “We need to get sprayed at least once a week until we can get control over all the bugs.” In other words, the bugs are in control to such a level that Mr. Jester reports to her that the homeless veteran residents are having to use what little money they have to buy roach traps for their own living spaces. Really! The infestation is so bad that homeless veterans are having to use their own money to buy roach-killing products? The U.S.Vets staff member finishes this topic by strongly stating, “These roaches are horrible, just horrible.”
So to be clear here, veterans have to use their own money to buy products to maintain the safe health conditions at the shelter that is supposed to be providing a safe and healthy environment for them, while taxpayer donated monies still continue going to the U.S.Vets through the VA and other streams, for the needs of homeless veterans. Let that sink in.
Veteran Jester then continues by telling me that the roaches are so bad that they get into the beds and under the blankets. He said the kitchens even have them in the microwave and steamers. I asked him what else he could tell me about the kitchen and dining areas? He said, “Almost all the food is donated and expired. There are roaches in the pantry, quite often there is mold on the bread, the meat gets slippery like right before it goes bad, the cheese is hard, and one day we even found maggots in the salsa.”
The U.S.Vets’ website declares, “Every veteran deserves stability and a place to call home. U.S.Vets follows a housing first model…” I think I would want to see the details of that “Housing First Model”. Their website also claims, “It is our duty at U.S.Vets to deliver on our promise to always serve those who served.” It seems to me, that the veterans are the ones still serving.
A partner of another veteran non-profit organization, called Code Of Vets, has reported to www.ontinuethemission.net, that the 990 for U.S.Vets show only about 30% of all donations go towards the veterans. These numbers will be reflected in a future article.
Please understand, that Mr. Jester’s goal is not to bring down U.S.Vets, quite the contrary, and it is not about him, he truly just wants the service owed to his brother and sister veterans now and in the future, to be better and less harmful, without all the neglect, abuse, and cover-ups.
Take a good look at these photos. Live and dead cockroaches lying all over the floors, black mold bleeding through coats of paint, no shower curtains, and bad mildew build-up, feces and urine on the walls and in corners, water damage and mold where food is stored, elevators out of order, rusty metal wall lockers to store their clothes in, and I am sure there is more on “the list.” Where is the hope in this environment? Where is the dignity and self-worth bestowed in these facilities? Are our homeless feeling valued when housed in these facilities?
Till next time, “Charlie Mike” (Continue the Mission)