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Supportive Services for Veterans

October 19, 2014

No veteran should go without a home

by Joe Mortensen

No veteran without safe, stable housing – that’s the goal of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), a program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administered by MidMichigan Community Action Agency (MMCAA).

The sole focus of SSVF is rapid rehousing to prevent homelessness. “The words ‘homeless’ and ‘veteran’ should not be in the same sentence,” said Debra Schafer, outreach assistant director at MMCAA. “We want to be part of the solution.”

SSVF has set a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015, according to Schafer. Her agency has received a $500,000 grant to house 250 veterans’ families in its 11 county service area, which includes Midland County.

To date MMCAA has been able to house 180 veterans’ families (300 people) in safe, affordable housing. The total includes 23 families in Midland County. SSFV assists veterans with rent, utility payments, deposits, moving costs, purchase of emergency supplies for a participant, transportation, and child care.

Finding veterans in need of housing is one major challenge. “Many veterans don’t identify themselves as needing help or identify as veterans,” said Schafer, a veteran of military service herself. “If they didn’t serve in wartime or did not serve their full term, they think they’re ineligible.”

But that’s not the case. SSFV clearly defines “veteran” as any person who has served in the military and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable discharge.

Schafer cited incidents of veterans living in the woods or tents in midwinter. “Most of them don’t know where to turn,” she said. One veteran in Midland County found shelter in a snowmobile trailer in the bitter winter cold. A long extension cord from a willing neighbor’s house brought power to a small space heater. He had only a flashlight to read by. Help from SSFV came to the rescue. “He is now permanently housed in a subsidized unit with rent he can afford,” Schafer said.

Finding enough adequate, safe, and affordable housing for veterans is the other big challenge. This is especially true in Midland County which has a very limited supply of places for veterans whose “affordable” monthly housing costs are capped at 30% of income.

Veterans who are presently homeless or at risk of homelessness may apply for housing assistance through MMCAA at 877-204-6152.

Referrals are also available through Veterans Services of Midland County (989-832-6843), Michigan Works (1409 Washington, 989-631-3073), and many non-profit organizations such as Midland Area Homes and Legal Services of Eastern Michigan.

Debra Schafer represents MidMichigan Community Action Agency on the Midland County Continuum of Care, a consortium of more than 20 private and public agencies working to prevent homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

Midland County Continuum of Care website: https://continuummidland.wordpress.com

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