Ending Homelessness Among Veterans

Finding Funding Remains Greatest Challenge

Ending Homelessness Among Veterans

From left to right: Victor Carlson, Chief, Homeless Services, VA-New Jersey Health Care System; Maria Maio-Messano, HUD NJ Field Office Director; Julie Irwin, VA, Homeless Care Line Manager, NY/NJ Veterans Integrated Service Network; Victor DeLuca, Mayor of Maplewood; John Ducey, Mayor of Brick; Sheena Collum, South Orange Village President; Elisha Harig-Blaine, Principal Housing Associate (Veterans & Special Needs), National League of Cities.

On August, 18, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) New Jersey office hosted an event for the New Jersey mayors and elected officials who have signed on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The event took place at the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Lyons.

An initiative of the White House, the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness works towards the goal of ending veteran homelessness in the United States by the end of 2015. Mayors committed to the Challenge use available resources including HUD-VASH housing vouchers, create employment opportunities, and work with local Continuums of Care, non-profits, and advocates to find permanent housing for homeless veterans.

The day-long session featured information about available resources and remarks from

Experts from HUD and Veterans Administration (VA) programs, non-profits, and advocacy organizations highlighted resources and best practices.

“The greatest challenge is finding funding; financial resources for new development and subsidies. Smaller municipalities sometimes find it challenging to create large developments. New construction requires multiple funding sources — subsidies, tax credits, private financing.”

Said Maio-Messano.

“With 58,000 reported homeless veterans in the U.S., the battle is not over and the price of war continues to be paid, often by the people who risked the most for America’s freedom.”

According to myCentralJersey.com.

If enacted, the House non-defense appropriations bills would trigger the enforcement sequester and an across the board cut equal to $1.8 billion across all non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. This would mean additional cuts to programs already severely underfunded in the House bills due to the sequestered spending caps.

A highlight of the event was the testimonies of previously homeless veterans who are now permanently housed through HUD-VASH housing vouchers with supportive services.

“I talk to homeless veterans in Plainfield and Newark. I wish I could go out across the state and talk to all of the veterans who are struggling to tell them that there is help available — there is a clean bed for you, there is a job for you. I think they will listen to me because I’ve lived it.”

Said Lawrence Prather, a formerly homeless veteran who now has his own home.

Other participants at the Lyons VA Medical Center event included:

“So many people just don’t understand how difficult it is for a veteran to make the transition back to civilian life. The attitude is — just suck it up. But until you walk in that person’s shoes, you can’t judge.”

Said Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach said.

Between the 2010 rollout of Opening Doors – the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness – and the January 2014 point-in-time homeless count, homelessness among veterans nationwide has decreased by 33%.

Ronald G. Rios, Middlesex Freeholder Director, said that his country is working towards “Functional Zero.”

“This means as soon as a veteran presents him or herself as homeless, we will do everything in our power to move them into permanent housing as quickly as possible. I would say that we are at Functional Zero now. However, we need to make sure that all Middlesex County homeless veterans are aware that we are here to assist them.”

Rios said.

Since 2008, more than 79,000 HUD-VASH vouchers, including over 1,000 in New Jersey, have been awarded nationwide. Rental assistance through HUD and supportive services provided through the VA provide critical resources for local communities in ending veteran homelessness. VA Medical Centers assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for vouchers. Veterans rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.

Click here for a link to the Mayors Challenge list of NJ mayors that signed on to the Challenge.

Click here for news coverage from the Atlantic Highlands Herald.

Click here for news coverage from myCentralJersey.com.

Click here for FIOS1 video coverage from fios1news.