Upper Valley Veterans to Get Housing Help

V.A. Gives Out Grants to Groups With Aim of Ending Homelessness

White River Junction — Veterans in Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as those in other New England states, have the chance to receive financial assistance from a $4.9 million federal grant aimed to end veterans’ homelessness.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families, a national organization that provides aid to low-income veteran families, in conjunction with the Department of Veteran Affairs, awarded $300 million in housing grants Saturday to more than 300 community agencies across the United States.

“The Secretary of Veteran Affairs’ goal is to have no homeless vets by 2015, so it’s a huge effort by all the VA’s across the country to provide housing and care for our vets who so bravely served our country,” said Naaman Horn, public affairs officer, at the White River Junction VA Medical Center.

Four New England organizations were awarded funds from the homeless prevention grant totalling $4.9 million which will go toward helping approximately 980 homeless and struggling veteran families in the region the organizations serve.

The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College in Burlington received $1,655,788 from the $4,926,124 grant and the moneywill help serve 225 veteran households in Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York. Southwestern Community Services, of Keene, was awarded $263,337 to serve 55 veteran households in Coos, Sullivan, Cheshire and Grafton counties in New Hampshire; Harbor Homes Inc., of Nashua, received $1,007,000 to assist 300 veteran households across N.H.; and lastly, Veterans, Inc., based in Worcester, Mass., will dole out $2,000,000 to more than 300 New England veteran households.

“It’s important to get them (veterans) off of the streets and get them into housing,” Horn said.

Each individual organization applied for the grant and was selected based on merit, Horn explained.

Thanks to the grant s, the organizations will be able to offer veterans services such as assistance with rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs, as well as help in covering mental health care costs, a release from the White River Junction VA Medical Center read.

For the first time, Southwestern Community Services, of Keene, will help veterans from the Upper Valley through the funding it received.

“We are trying to serve the Upper Valley with this program, specifically,” said Keith Thibault, the non-profit’s chief development officer.

The actual grant funds are still in transition, but will be available for distribution somewhere within the next 60 to 90 days. Once received, Thibault said veterans in need of support services will go through an application process.

“We will be using funding for transportation services, income support … housing searches, rental assistance,” Thibault said, among a list of other services.

“Keeping people in their homes is a primary motive,” he added. “I think it’s more humane, personally,” instead of suggesting shelters.

Hartford American Legion Post 26 Commander Dan Reed said it’s a necessity to have money available to help veterans in need.

“And it’s good that we have it,” he said, adding he feels there is need for increased awareness of how veterans can access the assistance programs.

“You see it online once in a while, but you don’t hear much about it,” he said. “If you don’t have a computer or aren’t at the VA, you don’t know much about them. I think a lot of veterans aren’t aware of the things they are entitled to or can get.”

White River Junction VA volunteer and a veteran himself, Dennis Brown, of Quechee, said the need for financial assistance is through the roof.

“The need is way beyond high,” said Brown, who also attends programs at the local VA. “I don’t think we have any comprehension of the need that is out there. I think there are just so many people who have given up.”

Brown said he knows of many cases today where veterans are in need of assistance,but are too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for it.

“There is a stigma about stepping up and asking for help,” he said, speaking from a personal experience from when he sought assistance “several years ago” for help with medication copayments.

To the more timid, Brown said, “Push through and keep going for it. You did your part, you served, now it’s time for the government to do their part.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.