Seventy-five homeless veterans in southwestern Oregon soon will have a home they can call their own, thanks to rental vouchers provided by Uncle Sam.
Housing and Urban Development, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, announced it will provide 75 HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing rental vouchers in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties as part of a national effort to reduce homelessness among veterans. The vouchers are worth more than $337,000 total.
Locally, it includes $194,443 for 45 vouchers in Jackson County, $72,947 for 15 vouchers in Josephine County and $69,766 for 15 vouchers in Klamath County.
All of the vouchers are being handled by the VA's Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City. The SORCC has field offices in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls.
The local vouchers are among 540 being awarded in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. HUD previously awarded 928 rental vouchers for homeless veterans in Oregon, 1,605 in Washington and 165 in Idaho.
The program is part of the Obama Administration's commitment to end veteran and long-term chronic homelessness by 2015.
"Our veterans have answered the call of duty. That's why our nation has its own duty — to help homeless servicemen and women rejoin the very communities they have given so much to protect," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a prepared statement. "These grants make it possible to help more veterans obtain housing, bringing us steps closer to our goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015."
In southwestern Oregon, veterans without homes is a serious problem, said Billy Haden, the VA Supportive Housing case manager at the SORCC.
Until the new vouchers were announced, the SORCC had received 195 vouchers for homeless veterans in Jackson and Klamath counties, he said.
"We've used all of them," he said. "We will fill these new vouchers quickly. Our priority is chronically homeless veterans with dependents."
A chronically homeless person is one who has been homeless for a year, or has had four homeless episodes in the last three years, he said.
"We see all ages of homeless vets," he said. "We've had some who are 26 and just came back (from Iraq or Afghanistan). Our oldest is 87 or 88. We also have several families as well as female veterans."
With the voucher system, the goal is to stabilize veterans and get them the help they need to get back on their feet, he said, although noting some may need continued assistance.
While the VA and HUD are the key players, local counties and countless nonprofit service agencies have been essential to the success of the program to help homeless veterans, he said.
"We really appreciate their help," he said. "We couldn't do it without them."
More vouchers are expected to be announced this summer. Since the program began in 2008, 42,557 formerly homeless veterans around the country have found a place to live, according to HUD.
However, a HUD survey on a single night in January 2012 found 62,619 veterans were homeless nationwide.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.