United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Regional Commission on Homelessness (RCOH) announced today it has been awarded a $2 million Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant. The grant will be used to help more than 300 veterans and their families in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties through RCOH’s Vets Connect program. Vets Connect uses veteran peer specialists to reach out to homeless veterans and introduce them to services and transitional housing through case management. Since July 2012, Vets Connect has found nearly 250 veterans permanent or transitional housing.
“No veteran should be homeless,” says Milton J. Little, Jr., president of United Way of Greater Atlanta. “The SSVF grant will help us engage community partners and volunteers in our Vets Connect program to end veteran homelessness, not just manage it.”
In Atlanta, veterans account for more than 18 percent of the homeless population. With more than 2.4 million Americans serving in combat since September 11, 2001, more vets are returning to a depressed economy and are suffering from a wide array of injuries and health concerns. Both contribute directly to the increasing number of homeless among veterans and their inability to secure jobs.
Veteran Michael Couch enrolled in the military at age 17 and spent six years in the service, from 1982-1987, and returned to civilian life at age 23 with training as a military contractor and engineer. He never envisioned the life ahead of him would lead to a three-year stint of living on the streets of Atlanta. Michael was directed to the Atlanta Veteran Affairs (VA), where he was able to connect with United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Salvation Army, Project Community Connections Inc. (PCCI) and the Atlanta VA VASH (vouchers for permanent supportive housing for low income vets) program. He was able to obtain temporary housing, and eventually, permanent housing through the support of multiple agencies working together. As a benefactor of Vets Connect, Michael is getting his life back on track.
“While 80 percent of homeless veterans are eligible for services through Veteran Affairs, only 32 percent are accessing them,” says Protip Biswas, vice president of the Regional Commission on Homelessness at United Way of Greater Atlanta. “Through Vets Connect, we focus on connecting eligible veterans with case management and housing vouchers, which is critical to decreasing the number of homeless veterans in Atlanta.”
For more information on Vets Connect, visit unitedwayatlanta.org or contact Protip Biswas at firstname.lastname@example.org.