Sheltering Our Veterans: Housing fair draws those seeking help with rent
The (Harlingen, Texas) Valley Morning Star
HARLINGEN, Texas -- Jeffrey Lynch, who served in the Army for two years at Fort Gordon and Fort Jackson in Georgia in the early 1980s, said he has lived at the Salvation Army and with friends, but is currently homeless. But he says he is now finding help through a program that assists veterans with finding housing.
He was one of the veterans who attended a housing fair in Harlingen Thursday morning. Through the fair, he enrolled in the program and made appointments to look at apartments.
Military veterans seeking housing and other help in readjustment to civilian life were able to meet with agencies offering assistance at the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.
Harlingen Housing Authority Executive Director Blas Cantu said that under the Housing and Urban Development-VA Supporting Housing program, or VASH, the two agencies work together to provide rental assistance to veterans.
After being placed in an apartment or other housing unit, the VA pays a portion of the veterans’ rent directly to participating landlords, and the veteran pays a portion of the rent.
Private landlords were also meeting with veterans at the fair, Cantu said.
There are currently 50 rental vouchers available in the Harlingen area and 34 of those are now in use, Cantu said.
HUD allocates housing vouchers after finding out what sort of housing problem the veteran has and if any other support services are needed, Cantu said.
In the Harlingen Housing Authority, veterans can be placed in one of its four housing projects that have a total of 490 apartments, or through private landlords, Cantu said.
Some veterans need special accommodations because of disabilities, he said.
Bill McLemore, a VA public affairs and veterans advocate, said the HUD-VA Supporting Housing program is much more than just a program to provide housing opportunities for veterans, but finding a home for a homeless veteran is the first priority of VASH.
The program offers education, training and assistance in finding employment, as well as locating affordable housing, McLemore said.
The U.S. Department of Education is involved with program along with HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said.
“Homeless veterans are from every era, particularly Vietnam,” McLemore said.
Former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines not only get help from the VA, but also from agencies such as the Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Veterans Commission, McLemore said.
“A lot of veterans are drawing unemployment insurance, they’re eligible for it,” he said of veterans who cannot find a job.
The VASH program encompasses all aspects of the veteran’s situation, McLemore said.
Many veterans are eligible to reclaim their civilian jobs when they return, especially members of the National Guard or reserve units, McLemore said.
In Texas, veterans employment counseling, training and assistance are handled by the Texas Veterans Commission, which is a different system than other states, McLemore said.
Ruben M. Cantu, a member of the Harlingen Veterans’ Advisory Board, said he sometimes encounters homeless veterans and tries to steer them to programs such as VASH, but many are having problems with drugs or alcohol and are reluctant to get committed to paying a portion of their rent as well as utility charges.
Even though many veterans have families in the area, sometimes their relatives are reluctant to help their veterans who have a problem with alcohol or drugs, Ruben Cantu said.Distributed by MCT Information Services