Jamie Maddocks knew he had to get back on his feet.
The US Navy veteran was homeless and alone after a difficult divorce. He faced medical bills for leg injuries sustained decades back during training exercises and more bills from treatment for prostate cancer that required two surgeries. A 2012 car accident sent him to the hospital, an accident, a doctor told him, that most people would not have survived.
Hoping to get help, Maddocks traveled from North Carolina to the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston, the city he lived in after his discharge in the late 1970s.
A new initiative by the city aims to help retired members of the military like Maddocks, who is 59, to obtain resources they need to lead stable lives.
At a press conference Wednesday in the downtown veterans center, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the launch of a website that real estate owners can use to post rental listings and that employers can use to place job ads. The effort is part of an initiative to end homelessness among an estimated 400 veterans in Boston.
“It’s our obligation to do it,” Walsh said. “We have veterans that are homeless. We have a problem with homelessness in the city of Boston and this country. We’re really not addressing it the way we need to.”
For now, the city will not offer subsidies to get landlords to participate, Walsh said, though money may be forthcoming from the federal or state governments, and the city might eventually set aside some money for the initiative. The federal government already subsidizes housing for veterans through a voucher program.
So far this year, the city has found housing for about 300 homeless veterans, said Elizabeth Doyle of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. Finding cheaper housing and vacancies is especially difficult in Boston, she said.
Maddocks is among those who have found their own place. After living at the center's shelter for a year, he got an apartment in Jamaica Plain with the help of case workers. He also works at the center.
“It feels good having a home, coming to work, taking the train,” he said.
The city maintains a registry of homeless veterans, and most live in shelters, not on the streets, said Andy McCawley, the center’s president.
Walsh and other officials at the press conference, including Vince Kane, director of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, and Coleman Nee, secretary of the state’s Department of Veterans’ Services, emphasized the need for a multipronged approach that addresses substance abuse and health care in addition to housing and employment.
“Who are these men and women on the streets?” Kane said. “Do we know them by name? Do they need health care, housing?”
Walsh said that just as certain businesses make it a point to hire veterans, landlords could be persuaded to open housing to military veterans.
‘It feels good having a home, coming to work, taking the train.’
“In some neighborhoods, landlords are getting top dollar for their apartments,” Walsh said. “And I'm asking them if they have the ability to allow veterans to move into some of their units.”
The Boston effort is part of a push to end homelessness in US cities announced by Michelle Obama early last month. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are about 57,800 homeless veterans nationwide.
For Steve Scully, a resident at the center’s shelter, getting his own place and a steady job are priorities. The Boston native and Army veteran said he has suffered from post-
traumatic stress disorder since coming under sniper fire on military missions, an experience that led him to take up heavy drinking in civilian life.
A few years ago, he lost his license after driving drunk and was fired from his job as a truck driver. He began living out of his car in New Jersey and spent time in jail for drunken driving.
Since coming to the center in Boston, Scully said, he has been sober while undergoing treatment for PTSD. With the center’s help, he hopes to get a job as a motorcycle mechanic and find his own place in the next few months.
“I’m just trying to lead a normal life,” he said.Oliver Ortega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.