MANSFIELD – Thirty more housing vouchers for homeless veterans in Richland and Crawford counties are being made available — greatly expanded from the 40 now used to help former military members in need.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week nearly $65 million more would be spent to help more than 9,300 homeless veterans find a permanent place to call home.
The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, or HUD-VASH, combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
Groups handling a share of that funding include the Mansfield Metropolitan Housing Authority, which received $111,316 for 30 vouchers.
“We have, right now, already funding for 40 VASH vouchers. This would fund 30 more,” said Patrick Heydinger, executive director for the housing agency.
“We’re real pleased to be working with them, helping out — because there is a need,” he said.
Vouchers can be used for the veteran and anyone else in his or her household — helping those who “are single, married, with children, without children, whatever,” Heydinger said.
Veterans can choose any rental unit, so long as it meets metro housing standards.
“They pay a maximum of 30 percent of the rent and utilities. We pay the rest,” he said.
The Metro Housing and the VA’s Multi-Specialty Outpatient Clinic, opened at 1025 S. Trimble Road in January 2014, had already been working closely together to get services to veterans, Heydinger said.
“To qualify, a veteran has to be receiving some sort of treatment or assistance through the local VA clinic,” he said.
“The clinic brings vets into our office. We determine if they meet income eligibility and offer them vouchers for rental assistance,” Heydinger said.
“The VA offers counseling and other services. But to be in the program, they have to go the local VA office,” he added.
The effective date for the new rental assistance vouchers to kick in is May 1, but because it will take some time for veterans to be referred and then determined to meet eligibility requirements, it’s likely the first homeless veterans will be helped sometime this summer, Heydinger said.
“It’s a great program,” he said, noting that veterans housing assistance is one of the few areas where the federal government has increased the amount of funding for low-income people.
“Funding (for other types of housing assistance) is going to be a tough issue down the road,” he said.
Availability of the funds was “very competitive,” he said. “Not every Housing Authority program can meet the criteria.”
It helped that Mansfield was the site for a regional outpatient clinic, operated under the wing of the Louis B. Stokes VA Clinic in Cleveland, Heydinger said.
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