Today, Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) announced that 75 permanent supportive housing assistance vouchers totaling $471,701 have been awarded to the Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin County Housing Authorities under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). This program is administered by HUD, Department of Veterans Affairs, and local housing agencies to provide permanent housing with case management and other supportive services for homeless veterans across the country.
In 2011, the Merced County Housing Authority came to Congressman Cardoza for help, after they were denied any HUD-VASH housing vouchers for the third year in a row. Congressman Cardoza sent a letter to the Veterans Affairs office in San Francisco and worked tirelessly with HUD, the VA, and local authorities in Merced to correct this error so homeless veterans in Merced County would be included in the HUD-VASH program going forward. With today's announcement, the VA has reversed its previous position and recognized the need in Merced County for assisting homeless veterans.
"Our veterans have made enormous sacrifices for our country, and they deserve at the very least to have a safe and secure place to call home," said Congressman Cardoza. "These vouchers will help put a roof over the heads of many Central Valley veterans who are currently homeless. I am pleased that the VA listened to my calls on behalf of Merced County's homeless veterans, and will be awarding them housing vouchers this year. We should be doing everything in our power to give those who have served the same level of support that they have selflessly given us."
The 25 vouchers awarded to the Housing Authorities in Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties will provide permanent shelter to veterans and their families. The Central Valley has been severely impacted by the ongoing housing and foreclosure crisis, and these vouchers are critical to reducing the number of homeless veterans in the region.
Rennise Ferrario, Executive Director of the Merced County Housing Authority said, "I am extremely grateful to see we have been included this year in the HUD-VASH program. For homeless veterans who have nowhere to turn, this program is a godsend. After being turned down the last three years, Congressman Cardoza and his staff dedicated time and effort to make sure this year would be different."
With the 25 additional HUD-VASH vouchers just awarded, the San Joaquin Housing Authority will now total 85 vouchers. Since 2010, there have been 9 participants that have successfully completed the program and no longer required the VASH voucher. The current homeless population for veterans in San Joaquin County is an estimated 4.24 percent.
Barbara Kauss, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Housing Authority said, "The HUD-VASH voucher program is a perfect example of government agencies working together to solve real world problems for real people. This program serves homeless veterans who would otherwise have few options."
The grants announced today are part of $75 million appropriated for fiscal year 2012 to support the housing needs of approximately 10,500 homeless veterans nationwide. VA Medical Centers (VAMC) provide supportive services and case management to eligible homeless veterans. This is the first of two rounds of the 2012 HUD-VASH funding. HUD expects to announce the remaining funding by the end of this summer.