Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Programs To Help Homeless Veterans Start Tomorrow

Almost 9,000 homeless Veterans are going to begin getting more help starting July 1, thanks to a $15 million grant announced last week by the Department of Labor.  The funding is part of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program and will be distributed to 64 agencies nationwide that work with Veterans and their families.

"As a nation, it is our sacred obligation to the countless fathers and mothers, to the sons and daughters who put their own lives on the line to protect ours," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said of efforts to assist homeless veterans. "No service member should ever have to come home and be homeless. They should never have to go to sleep in cars, streets, under bridges, or in vacant homes."

The money for this program is awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and other groups that have demonstrated that they can provide effective help to homeless veterans.

“This is pretty fundamental. You send people to war, you make damn sure they’re not living on the streets when they come home,” said Senator John Kerry (D-MA), of the funding. “This money will help homeless vets and their families find jobs and safe housing.”

The organizations receiving the grants provide a wide range of services to America’s Veterans including career counseling and job training as well as basic support services such as clothing, housing referrals and access to substance abuse counselors.

Soldier On, a Massachusetts organization that serves homeless Veterans, will receive $300,000 of the grant money to provide Veterans with employment training.

John F. Downing, president and CEO of Soldier On, praised federal and local representatives for their efforts to help secure the grant, saying that many elected officials have “…once again showed their commitment to serving veterans by not only supporting us in applying for this grant, but by making the commitment to actualize these grants in the lives of the veterans we mutually serve.”

Easter Seals of Oregon was also a funding recipient, garnering $200,000 to assist homeless Vets.  Katie Shepard, Rogue Valley area director for Easter Seals, which works closely with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Oregon, said the money can’t come too soon.

"These veterans have just run into barriers in life," she said. "Because they faced homelessness does not make them less. They still deserve respect and dignity as all our nation's heroes do.”

According to Shepard, many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, addiction problems or military sexual trauma but “… in general, the veterans we work with are eager and ready to work."

Solis spelled out the demographics for homeless Vets saying that almost two-thirds are between the ages of 35 and 54, and that an increasing number of those are women.  She also noted progress made by the Obama administration, adding that while the number of homeless Veterans was estimated at 90,000 four years ago, that number stands at 60,000 today.

“We’re making some progress but we know we have to do more,” Solis said. "The men and women who have served our country with distinction should not have to struggle to find good jobs when they return from service. These grants will help homeless veterans gain access to meaningful employment and more stable post-military lives."

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