The Department of Veterans' Affairs on Thursday announced it has awarded $300 million in grants to get homeless veterans and their families into housing and keep at-risk vets in their homes.
The money triples the amount the department previously awarded through its Supportive Services for Veteran Families program to non-profit organizations that help the homeless and at-risk veteran populations, according to Lisa Pape, director of homeless programs said during a telephone conference with reporters.
"This program is the crown jewel of programs in our continuum of care … to provide funding for community partners and nonprofit organizations to help homeless vets, their families and their children exit homelessness very quickly or maintain their current place of living if they're having difficulty with paying bills and getting their needs met," Pape said.
"The goal is really to prevent these families and veterans from falling into homelessness," she said.
Vincent Kane, director of the National Center for Homeless Veterans, said the latest funding marks the third time the department has awarded the grants. He said data collected shows the program is successful.
"We found we had served over 35,000 individuals [through the program], 21,500 veterans and close to 10,000 children," he said. "The success rate is at 86 percent."
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2009 announced plans to end homelessness among military veterans in 2015. The number of vets without homes has since dropped 17 percent, though the problem still affects some 62,000 former service members on any given night, according to recent government estimates.
Kane said the department expects the latest grants will help 120,000 veterans and family members re-gain permanent housing or stay in their homes over the next year.
Kane said increasing grants to community non-profits has always been part of the VA's strategic plan, since it expands the department's ability to provide assistance to the veteran population.
The VA awarded the competitive grants to 319 community organizations with proven track records in providing vets with aid and services such as case management, financial planning, employment assistance, including transportation and child care, officials said. The groups also draw on other agencies' services "when necessary to promote reestablishment of housing and the ability [of veterans] to be successfully reintegrated back into the community," Kane said.
Overall, the VA committed more than $1 billion for the fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 30, to strengthen programs that prevent homelessness among veterans. In addition to housing-oriented programs, the department also funds health care, job training and education programs for homeless veterans, those at-risk of homelessness, and their families.