Veterans accuse nonprofit of putting money ahead of their housin - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Veterans accuse nonprofit of putting money ahead of their housing

A group of veterans are upset at the way they were treated at a veteran housing facility in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A group of veterans are upset at the way they were treated at a veteran housing facility in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The veterans claim U.S. Vets is putting money over the welfare of the veterans in the facility. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The veterans claim U.S. Vets is putting money over the welfare of the veterans in the facility. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
They allege they were retaliated against for speaking out about issues like safety and security. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) They allege they were retaliated against for speaking out about issues like safety and security. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
U.S. Vets denied the allegations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) U.S. Vets denied the allegations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A group of military veterans accuses a Valley organization that provides housing for at-risk vets of pushing them out the door.

The vets say it happened so the organization can make way for a VA program that will bring in thousands of dollars more per month, per room. It's an accusation the organization denies.

"I was out on the street for a while, and then somebody told me about the U.S. Vets program," said one of the veterans, who asked that his identity be protected.

A total of six current and former residents of the Grand Veterans Village spoke to CBS 5 Investigates about their experiences at the housing facility. All said they were grateful that the program and programs like it exist. But they have two complaints about the Veterans Village and U.S. Vets, which is the nonprofit that operates the facility.

They allege they were retaliated against for speaking out about issues like safety and security, and that some of them were evicted to make way for a more lucrative program, which is paid for by the VA.

"They saw an opportunity where they can make more money per room," said another veteran.

Some of the vets say they pay or paid roughly $450 per month for a studio or one-bedroom apartment, which is located in a renovated motel.

"It was a good deal," said one vet, who lived there while attending school.

"Last year in December, that kind of changed," said John Mendibles, the only one in the group who allowed us to use his name in this story.

Mendibles says that was when U.S. Vets began taking part in a VA program that paid the organization $45.79 per day, per bed. Mendibles alleges that some of the $450 per month residents were pushed out to make way for the people in the new VA-funded program. He says he started seeing as many as three veterans to a unit, bringing in as much as $4,121 per month per room.

U.S. Vets issued a statement to CBS 5 Investigates, stating in part:

"We did hear this concern. Out of respect for the privacy of our clients, we are not able to comment on specific cases. That said, it is important to note that no veterans were displaced or asked to move due to the integration of the VIP program. Veteran tenants in long-term supportive housing had the option to stay in their current units or move to another building on site, if they did not want to be in the same building as the VIP program. Today, our campus is similar to veteran services campuses nationwide, offering a mixed population of permanent and transitional housing to create a true continuum of care. At the forefront, is our utmost commitment to ensure that every veteran can access housing, as well as the health care, employment and supportive services they need to succeed after service."

The veterans who spoke to CBS 5 Investigates also alleged they were retaliated against for speaking out about crime, security and rules violations at Veterans Village.

"We have drug addicts there. We have drug dealers and we have prostitutes," said one veteran.

Several of them say they started a block watch, with the approval of U.S. Vets.

"We kept a lot of people safe," said the same veteran.

They say the organization disbanded the block watch late last year, and they contend they were retaliated against by the management for speaking out when they saw problems.

"People can walk in off the streets, do the drugs, sell it to anybody, then walk off. And management turned a blind eye," said another veteran. "I did nothing wrong. I followed every single policy I could have. I'm being retaliated against because I'm a member of the block watch," he said.

Grand Veterans Village has caught the attention of community leaders.

"You have to control the perimeter. You have to control access," said state Rep. Ray Martinez, who represents west Phoenix. Martinez had a career with the Arizona Department of Corrections and ran halfway houses before getting into politics.

He says veterans at risk of relapsing into addiction or becoming homeless need protection from drugs and problems that come in off the streets.

U.S. Vets told CBS 5 Investigates they participate in the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program with the Phoenix Police Department, have improved the lighting inside and outside the facility, have 24-hour staff coverage, onsite security cameras, and are in the process of installing a perimeter fence.

"I think it's a good sign," said Martinez.

But the vets who spoke to CBS 5 Investigates say the improvements don't help them.

"They sent me out on the street," said one veteran.

"My lease was terminated," said Mendibles.

U.S. Vets responded to the accusation of retaliation with the following statement:

"We did hear concerns from tenants about crime. Such feedback from our residents is important and helps us to be responsive in identifying solutions. No veteran tenants were evicted or asked to leave due to concerns about crime. We take seriously our responsibility to provide a safe environment for veterans, and maintain a strong relationship with local law enforcement to combat crime and ensure the safety of our community."

You can read the entire statement from U.S. Vets by clicking/tapping here or below.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter on the CBS 5 Investigates team. His reports have landed crooks behind bars and led to changes in state law.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

He has exposed conmen who prey on the elderly and predators who target women and children. Morgan combines his legal training with the experience he’s earned over 20-years of news reporting in Arizona to break big stories and dig beyond the headlines. His stories about education, consumer scams and crooked politicians have gone on to make national headlines. Among his favorite investigations are the ones that take him undercover. In addition his hidden camera investigations on drug and human smuggling, Morgan infiltrated some of the most dangerous militia and vigilante groups in the southwest. Members were later charged with crimes that range from murder to child molesting. Over the years, Morgan’s work has appeared on CBS News, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and NPR. Morgan won ten Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting, the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, earned his Juris Doctorate at Concord Law School, teaches media law at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and is the president of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, Inc., which advocates for open records and open government. When he’s not working, Morgan enjoys camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats, and spending time with his family at their ranch in southern Arizona.

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