Three homeless aid groups in Cincinnati are getting a bit of help from the federal government. On Sept. 19, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs announced it awarded nearly $600 million to homeless aid groups around the United States, and three local organizations managed to secure $600,000 of that funding.
The money will be awarded primarily to Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries, but Goodwill has partnered up with Strategies to End Homelessness and the Healing Center at Vineyard Community Church to make full use of the money.
Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness, says the money will help make up for stimulus funding that was recently lost — at least in the case of military veterans.“It’s going to go to helping veterans and their families that are either at risk of becoming homeless or already homeless,” Finn says.
That makes the grant funding different in two major ways:
First, the money can now be used to help veterans’ families, not just
veterans. Typically, aid to veterans is allocated in a way that can only
benefit veterans, but this money will help their husbands, wives and children.
Also, the money will also be used to help vets at risk for homelessness instead of just vets who are already homeless. With the traditional, limited funding, homeless aid groups can only reach out to people who are already out in the streets; with this new funding, groups like Strategies to End Homeless will be capable of taking preventative measures that keep vets in a home.
The new funding, which Finn estimates will help about 200 families, will be divided between the local organizations so they can each take on different roles. For Strategies to End Homelessness, that mostly means working on short-term solutions for homeless or at-risk vets.
“The biggest (services) will be rentals and financial assistance to either get them to be stable in housing or keep them in their housing and prevent them from becoming homeless,” Finn says.
After that, care will shift to Goodwill, which will work on job training, job searching, tutoring, computer training and other important tools to help keep vets employed and housed.
“If the financial support can keep them from being homeless in the short term, then the services that the Goodwill case manager will put in place will hopefully keep them from being homeless in the long term,” Finn says.
To reach out to vets in need, the organizations will use current connections, street outreach programs and phone hotlines to make sure the program reaches as many people as possible while staying efficient. To Finn, one of the most important tasks of Strategies to End Homelessness is to make sure no funding is wasted and the organizations coordinated by Strategies to End Homelessness do not have redundant programs.
Strangely enough, aid to vets has become a political issue recently. Forty Republicans in the U.S. Senate recently blocked the Veteran Jobs Corps Act, which would have funded job programs for military veterans. Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich recently introduced a resolution in the Ohio General Assembly to encourage U.S. Senate Republicans to pass the bill.
Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.