Fewer homeless veterans live in Pinellas County

Pinellas County said it will not reach its goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, but it's getting close. 

"We actually anticipate being able to declare that we functionally ended veteran homelessness around March" St. Petersburg veteran services director Cliff Smith told FOX 13 News Friday. 

The term "functionally end" is a caveat used in the social services community. It means homeless veterans who want help getting off the street are being provided those services.  

Smith explained, "there are some that are just saying, 'no thank you, I'm good. I'm happy with my life, leave me alone.' But even on those, we don't give up. We keep coming back to them - 'are you ready to accept our help?'"

The county received a $7 million federal grant for the project, but it was a challenge from President Obama that motivated  the county's already well-established services network.

About 600 homeless veterans have been placed in housing, ranging from temporary shelter to permanent dwellings. 

The veteran program at Pinellas Hope is one of those shelters. It's  run by Catholic Charities with federal, county and city funding. The program's coordinator said the funding helped streamline some of the shelter's processes, which helped get more veterans into housing.

 "We're coordinating with all of the community providers and we've seen a big dramatic reduction in a lot of the veteran population," Joe DeSantiago said.  "We want to eliminate a lot of the obstacles that there were before- there were so many obstacles you have to do this, you have to do that" DeSantiago explained.

Despite missing the end-of-2016 deadline, Smith predicts the challenge will be met sooner rather than later. 

"Our goal is to get every veteran, no matter what their discharge status is, they're getting housed," he said. "We can almost guarantee it."