By Brandon Cooper
Lewis Russell, 55, of Hyattsville, Md., has been unemployed for more than a year and a half.
He came to the 16th annual Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down on Jan. 21 to visit his brother, who stays at the Washington D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and hopefully land a job.
He is one of many veterans in the D.C. area considered at risk of becoming homeless by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"I'm not [homeless] yet," Russell said. "Put it like this though -- if it wasn’t for my wife, I'd be that way."
As it looks to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the VA is shifting its focus from rescuing the homeless to preventing at-risk veterans like Russell from being on the streets in the first place.
"Our prevention efforts need to supplant our rescue efforts for us to get a handle on [homelessness]," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who stopped in to visit the annual event, which has traditionally emphasized outreach and service to vets who are already homeless.
Street Sense is biweekly nonprofit newspaper publishing on issues pertaining to homelessness and poverty, sold by homeless individuals on the streets to help them earn an honest income. To donate directly to Street Sense, click here.