Local organizations, grant to help homeless vets

Report found nearly 20 percent of homeless population in La Crosse area are veterans

recent report found that nearly 20 percent of the homeless population in the La Crosse area are veterans. 

With the help of a new grant, the Veterans Assistance Foundation in Tomah hopes to keep that number from growing.

The most recent report shows that in 2013, the area of Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties had one of the highest, if not the highest, population of homeless veterans in Wisconsin. That is why staff members at the Tomah VA and nonprofit agencies are working so hard to get veterans the help they deserve.

Amanda Steinhoff is the outreach coordinator for the homeless veterans program at the Tomah VA. She said most veterans don’t know the benefits or resources available to them, which could be one of the reasons 73 veterans reported being homeless in the July Point-In-Time Homeless Count in the four-county area.

Steinhoff’s job is to find and help those veterans, hopefully by getting them off the street.

“We collaborate with all community programs to make sure veterans really have all the resources at their fingertips to help them get what they need,” Steinhoff said.

One of the many organizations taking part in this fight is the VAF. The organization received a grant this week of nearly $620,000 to keep veterans and their families from becoming homeless.

“This grant was meant to go out and help those that were about to become homeless — they might be living in an apartment, they missed the last couple months rent, their car broke down. It’s keeping them in their homes,” VAF President and CEO Christopher Hanson said.

Hanson said last year, this grant helped 236 veteran families who were either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and he expects to help even more in 2016.

“It helps augment all the other programs we have in addition to the new permanent housing projects we’re working on right now here, based in Tomah,” Hanson said.

Hanson also said this grant program is beneficial because it is much more cost-effective to prevent a person or family from becoming homeless by helping them out with a payment here and there than it is to help them after they become homeless.

He said a large percentage of homeless males population are veterans, but right now he sees an increase in the number of female veterans becoming homeless, many of them with children.