In an effort to prevent veteran homelessness, Rhode Island's Congressional delegation today announced grants for two veteran advocacy non-profits. Operation Stand Down Rhode Island will receive $500,000 to serve about 440 households throughout the state. Veterans Inc. will receive $1 million to serve veterans in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The grants are being awarded from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program whose mission is to prevent and end homelessness among veterans.
Operation Stand Down Rhode Island is a private, non-profit organization that provides a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible, low-income veteran families. Operation Stand Down Rhode Island will use these federal funds to provide outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and assistance in getting other public benefits. In addition, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island may also offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.
Headquartered in Massachusetts, with office space in Pawtucket, Veterans Inc. is the largest provider of services to veterans and their families in New England. Veterans Inc.'s approach addresses the "total veteran," incorporating job training and employment assistance, health care, and supportive services such as transportation and legal aid.
"This federal funding is a smart investment in reducing homelessness in Rhode Island. Our veterans have made great sacrifices to serve our country, and we must honor their commitment. When they return from the battlefield, they shouldn't have to battle on their own to get help and affordable housing," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who worked on the Appropriations Committee to boost SSVF funding and introduced the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act.
"Many Rhode Island veterans are struggling to make ends meet during these challenging economic times. It is essential that we honor our veterans' service, and ensure that they have the help they need to stay afloat," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "Operation Stand Down Rhode Island and Veterans Inc. provide crucial services to reduce instances of homelessness among Rhode Island veterans, and help struggling veterans get back on their feet. I applaud the VA for providing grants to help continue their valuable work."
"Striving to meet the commitment announced by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to end veteran homelessness by 2015 isn't just a policy goal, it's an obligation owed to all those who have served with honor and distinction," said U.S. Representative Jim Langevin. "Operation Stand Down Rhode Island and Veterans Inc. have demonstrated an unsurpassed dedication to addressing this national crisis, and we should all show our support for their efforts to meet this challenge."
"It is our responsibility to ensure that our nation honors our veterans and provides access to critical supportive services, and with these funds, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island and Veterans Inc. can continue their vital work improving housing stability and helping to fulfill our nation's promise to all those who have bravely served and selflessly sacrificed in defense of our great nation," said U.S. Representative David Cicilline.
Commenting on the award, Executive Director of Operation Stand Down Erik B. Wallin, said "this money comes at a critical time for our local veterans especially those returning from recent deployments." He added "these veterans have returned with the scars of war both physical and mental and face the added burden of high unemployment and a stagnant local economy." Wallin said "Operation Stand Down Rhode Island will use the resources provided in this award to assist veterans in need to stay in their homes and provide services to help them get back on their feet so they can again pursue the American dream for which they fought."
This is the SSVF program's second year. Last year, VA provided about $60 million to assist 22,000 veterans and family members nationwide. This year, the program is awarding nearly $100 million in grants that will help approximately 42,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.