President Obama set a goal four years ago to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. Since then, more homeless vets in our area have received help.
While officials said there's still a long ways to go, a federal grant is aiming to help even more vets in our area get back on their feet this year.
This is the third year for the Department of Veteran's Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. This year, the program is awarding nearly $3.5 million toward Wisconsin nonprofits helping to end homelessness among vets.
It's the second year in a row the Veteran's Assistance Foundation in Tomah will receive some of that funding, and the organization hopes it can make an even bigger dent in homeless vet population as well as homelessness overall.
In the past year, the Veterans Assistance Foundation in Tomah has been working hard to help veterans and their families facing homelessness get back on their feet.
“It’s important to help them because they're in need just like anyone in the community or in our country,” said Don Roach, program director for supportive services at the VAF. “If they need help, we want to be there to help them.”
In 2012, the organization received $305,000 from the federal grant. More than 40 vets and their families within the 14 surrounding counties benefited from that money.
“We helped them with their rent, security deposit, utility bills (and) repair of their automobile,” said Roach.
This year, the VAF will receive almost double last year's amount.
The more than $600,000 is projected to help 160 vets and their families within the surrounding 33 counties.
“They fall on hard times, loss of employment, loss of health,” said Roach. “It could be many different occasions that cause them to go homeless.”
This grant will also indirectly benefit other organizations in the community.
The VAF works closely with the shelter at the Salvation Army in La Crosse who has taken in vets on occasion.
The grant comes at a time when the shelter is seeing a growing number of homeless families in the community, and the extra boost for the VAF will help them focus on others needing help.
“(It will help) free up some space here,” said Julie Nelson of the Salvation Army. “Our beds are at a premium, the meal service is serving a lot of people. Our case managers are over-worked trying to work with as many people as they possibly can. That helps everyone especially those families get out of homelessness just a bit quicker.”
The VAF will not receive the funds from this year's federal grant until October. However, the organization still has fund from last year to help those in need for the several months to come.
For more information, head to the Veterans Assistance Foundation website.