Monday July 29, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont Veteran Services will receive more than $1.5 million from the federal government to serve 225 military veteran households in Vermont and the adjacent counties of New Hampshire and New York.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki earlier this month announced the award of $1,655,788 -- which is part of a $4,926,124 homeless prevention grant to Vermont, New Hampshire and greater New England -- for Vermont Veteran Services. Vermont, some counties in New York and Coos, Grafton, Sullivan and Cheshire counties of New Hampshire will benefit.

Veterans Inc. was also awarded $2 million to serve 400 veteran households in all of the six New England states. Harbor Homes Inc. was awarded $1,007,000 to serve 300 veteran households throughout New Hampshire. Coos, Sullivan, Cheshire and Grafton counties will also receive money through Southwestern Community Services Inc., which was awarded $263,337 to serve 55 veteran households. The grants will serve about 980 homeless and at-risk veteran families as part of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, according to a statement from Shinseki.

These grants are part of 319 community agencies that received awards in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., serves as the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and said all of Congress must work harder to ensure no man or woman who has served their nation goes without a place to call home.

"One of our great national embarrassments has been that thousands of American veterans have been homeless and sleeping in the streets," he said in an e-mail to the Reformer. "The VA has taken on an aggressive initiative to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, and has decreased the number of homeless veterans by 17 percent since 2009. We must continue to invest in the progress that has been made and remove any remaining barriers to housing for veterans."

The statement from Shinseki also says that, under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income veteran families living in, or transitioning to, permanent housing.

Those community organizations provide a variety of services that promote housing stability among eligible veteran families of low income. This is the program's third year and, in 2012, VA provided about $100 million to assist roughly 50,000 veterans and their family members.

In 2009, President Barack Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced in 2009 the federal government's goal to end veteran homelessness in 2015. The grants are aimed at helping accomplish that goal.

More information about VA's homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless. Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and their family members and friends, can contact VA's National Homeless Veterans Call Center at 1-877-4AID-VET.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.