Helping low income veterans in Central New Jersey who are at risk of losing their homes is the aim of a $2 million federal grant that has been awarded to the veterans organization Soldier On, announced Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who helped bring Soldier On to New Jersey and is a longtime champion programs aimed at reducing homeless including and especially among vets.
"Last year, we were successful in securing $1 million for a VA-Soldier On partnership that is already helping our veterans, especially those at risk of losing their homes," said Smith, the former Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "The boost in funding--up to $2 million for this year--will allow this non-profit organization to enhance its services and reach many more New Jersey veterans in New Jersey who are at risk of homelessness. This is a grant that can protect and improve the lives of those who have served the nation in uniform. It will help vets who have come across hard times stay in their homes."
The VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant program provides federal funding to help ensure veterans and their families can obtain the needed assistance with the economic, financial and employment-related issues that contribute to being at risk for homelessness. The program has grown to nearly $300 million this year and is expected to help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families across the country.
With the funding secured last year by Smith (click here to read a letter Smith wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in February 2012 detailing the project and seeking VA support), Soldier On has already served 522 veteran and family members throughout New Jersey with housing assistance. It was also announced today that the organization will expand the service area to include Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties through a separate $2 million grant. After Smith introduced Soldier On to North Jersey Representatives, Rep. Don Payne led an effort to expand the group's service area to those counties.
"Having worked with the Soldier On for a few years now to help veterans with housing, employment support and a potential Monmouth County facility, I am excited to move forward with this initiative," said Smith. "Throughout this process, I have been impressed by the dedication and commitment I have witnessed by Jack Downing and his team at Soldier On and the innovative solution they develop and implement. Soldier On's 15 years of experience are a true asset to the veterans in New Jersey and their families."
Jack Downing is president and chief executive officer of Soldier On.
"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," Downing said. "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."
Smith, the author of the first comprehensive law (Public Law 107-95) to address chronic homelessness among our nation's veterans, said providing housing assistance and stability to prevent homelessness in the first place is a key component of our shared goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness among the men and women who have honorably served.
"With many veterans and their families struggling to make ends meet--an unconscionable reality given their service to our country--we need to push ahead with these and other important efforts to serve those who have dedicated their lives in the selfless sacrifice to our country," Smith said.