Payne Announces $2 Million in Veterans Affairs Grants Awarded to Soldier On
Washington D.C. - Today Congressmen Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), and Albio Sires (NJ-08) announced that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will award a $2 million federal grant, with an option to renew annually, to Soldier On to assist veterans and their families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless in Essex, Hudson, and Bergen Counties.
“The brave men and women who have answered the call to serve our country and fight for our freedom deserve a roof over their head when they return to civilian life,” said Rep. Payne, Jr. “It’s heartbreaking that a large concentration of veterans and their families in Northeastern New Jersey are without access to housing resources. I’m so pleased this money will be used to serve the heroes and families who have so bravely served us. I look forward to working closely with Soldier On and other organizations to help break the vicious cycle of homelessness within our veteran community.”
The grant was awarded this morning to Soldier On, a leader for community-based homeless and at-risk veterans’ housing and services. With the VA’s help, Soldier On will now be able to provide a mobile door-to-door outreach campaign in coordination with local organizations to assist the needs of veterans throughout Essex, Hudson, and Bergen Counties. Soldier On has 16 years of experience developing transitional and permanent housing and successfully creating innovative homeownership opportunities in underserved areas. The grant is a part of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) Program that helps the VA in its fight against veteran homelessness.
The SSVF grants prevent at-risk veterans from becoming homeless and rapidly re-housing those who have recently fallen into homelessness. Soldier On will provide a range of economic, financial, and employment services that promote housing stability and play a key role in connecting veterans and their family members to VA services such as mental health care and other benefits.
“We are very grateful to the VA for creating a program that identifies underserved veterans and allows us to respond immediately to the crises in their lives. The Supportive Services for veteran families program allows us to intervene and stabilize veterans and their family members in the living situation that they are now in so that they don’t have to face the difficulties of homelessness,” President and CEO of Soldier On, John Downing, said.
“Soldier On provides much needed services to veterans at-risk of becoming homeless. By assisting those veterans in keeping their homes during difficult financial times, Soldier On is helping fulfill this nation’s commitment to our bravest men and women. This federal grant will allow Soldier On to expand their services to my district in Bergen and Hudson Counties, and help more deserving veterans throughout Northern New Jersey,” said Rep. Pascrell.
“I am pleased to congratulate Solider On’s receipt of a Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) grant and I thank them for their efforts in addressing the plight of homeless veterans. As our young men and women in uniform return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is imperative that we do everything we can to help our veterans succeed. I am proud to support Soldier On and thank my colleagues for their continual efforts in support of New Jersey’s veterans,” said Rep. Sires.
This is the third year SSVF grants have helped veterans and their families find or remain in their homes. The award is part of a larger announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which awarded nearly $300 million in grants that will help approximately 120,000 homeless at-risk veterans and their families. Last year, the VA provided about $100 million to assist approximately 50,000 veterans and family members. Nearly 90 percent of the veterans who completed the program in 2012 transitioned to permanent housing. In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end veterans’ homelessness in 2015. This is the first year Soldier On has applied for a grant that would be administered in Bergen, Essex, and Hudson Counties.
In January 2013, Congressman Payne, Jr.; Pascrell; and Sires wrote a letter to the VA’s Center on Homelessness Among Veterans National Director John Kuhn detailing the project and requesting VA support:
Dear Director Kuhn:
We write to express our strong support for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF) grant application submitted by Solider On. Soldier On is seeking to provide much needed housing assistance and supportive services to veterans of need in Northeastern New Jersey.
As you may be aware, Soldier On is a regional leader in New England, upstate eastern and central New York for community based homeless and at-risk veterans’ services. Soldier On has demonstrated commitment to developing transitional and permanent housing opportunities in underserved areas by working with regional VA Medical Centers (VAMC), state and local governments and veterans service organizations (VSO). In fact, Soldier On is currently operating a successful SSVF program in four central New Jersey counties that we believe would allow them to readily execute a similar program in our Congressional districts.
Veterans and their families in Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties would derive great benefits from the SSVF program as an estimated 86,760 veterans in these counties face higher rates of poverty. In addition, these underserved counties have an estimated 1,562 veterans who meet the very low income eligibly standard. In January 2012, HUD Point in Time documented 143 homeless veterans in the region in a single night. With the VA’s support, Soldier On will be able to provide specialized services to address the needs of a specific at-risk population in this region. Soldier On would also advance region-wide collaborations that provide prevention, housing, shelter, employment assistance, as well as clinical mental health and substance abuse treatment.
We are appreciative for the work and commitment the VA has demonstrated to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015. We believe that nonprofit and community-based organizations, like Soldier On, will continue to play an intricate role in attaining this goal. Given the success Soldier On has had in central New Jersey and other regions, we are certain that they will use these resources as effectively and efficiently as possible to benefit veterans throughout Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties. Accordingly, we would appreciate your careful consideration of this application.