Homeless and at-risk veterans will be offered a helping hand through almost $2 million in grant monies to help them get back on their feet.
Through a Soldier On (SO) grant, homeless and at-risk veterans in upstate Eastern and Central New York will be provided $1,976,402 in grants awarded to Soldier On by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
SO has already served nearly 500 at-risk veterans, spouses and children through a $1 million SSVF grant awarded in 2011 for the 18 counties in Eastern New York. Over the past year, SO grants have helped 12 veterans and their households in Clinton County, six in Essex County, 11 in Franklin County and 68 in a grouped district of Warren, Saratoga, Washington, and Hamilton county.
Last year, VA provided about $60 million to assist 22,000 Veterans and family members. This year the VA estimates the grants will serve approximately 42,000 homeless and at-risk Veteran families nationwide.
The program began in 2009 as part of President Barack Obama and Secretary Shinseki’s and the federal government’s goal to end Veteran homelessnessby 2015. According to the 2011 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness among veterans has declined 12 percent since January 2010.
According to Mike Hagmaie, Senior Vice President of Soldier On, the grant is available for anyone who has served as active duty military and makes less than the median income in their area.
Hagmaie said if a veteran is in need of services or isn’t sure if they are eligible, they should call and let the SO try to help.
“What’s most important is if someone’s a vet and is experiencing difficulty, call us and let us figure out how we can help and find out what services we can provide,” Hagmaie said.
The services provided by SO could include anything from helping to pay rent for a minimum of five months over a 12 month span, help make down payments on a new home and or utility hook up, help with moving costs, and can offer job training and assistance to help veterans get on their feet.
Peter Potter, Public Affairs Officer for New York Department of Veterans Affairs said many veterans do not come to the VA for assistance in times of crisis. Initiatives like SO are a good way to engage veterans and reassure them the services at the VA are meant for them.
“This isn’t meant as a perpetual handout but a hand up to bring veterans out of a funk and proceed with their lives,” Potter said. “This is a good way to connect with folks who otherwise won’t reach out to the VA.”
Potter said many veterans don’t seek or resist seeking assistance for a variety of reasons.
“I hear, ‘I don’t want to take away from another veteran,’ or, ‘It’s not that bad I can’t handle it,’ but the most important thing for our veterans to realize is these services are for them in gratitude for the service they’ve provided to our country,” Porter said.
SO also received a $976,402 renewal grant to continue to provide housing services to about 400 more veterans in 18 Eastern New York counties.
These awards are among nearly $100 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Family (SSVF) grants targeted to provide housing stability for approximately 42,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families nationally. The grants will go to 151 community agencies in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
For more information at the grant go to www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp or call 1-866-406-8449.