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Agencies to help veterans find a home

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Homeless veterans in Rowan County can now trade nights on the streets for their own apartments.
The Rowan County Housing Authority and the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center are offering housing vouchers for qualifying veterans.
Rodney Cress, vice chairman of the Rowan County Housing Authority, will announce full details of the program at an 11 a.m. news conference today.
“We will be providing to veterans who are currently homeless a place where they can live, raise their families and get their lives turned around without having to worry about their next meal or a roof over their head,” said Cress, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
The Rowan Housing Authority has been approved for 35 housing vouchers, each of which will cover an individual veteran or a veteran and family.
“We will work closely with the Salisbury VA Medical Center’s homeless program in placing these veterans,” Cress said. “We are pleased to be a part of such an important and life-changing program.”
The local Housing Authority is one of three in North Carolina to be funded for the program. The others are in Wake County and Asheville.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a total of $232,609 for the Rowan program for one year.
The Hefner VA Medical Center will make the determination on qualifying for the program and offer a program to help them make the transition.
Once the VA makes the determination, the veteran will be sent to the Rowan Housing Authority, which will issue the voucher and assist in finding the housing.
Sara Potts, executive director of the Housing Authority, said the agency will likely be seeking one-bedroom apartments. If a family is involved, it will look for a house. The Housing Authority is also working to get furniture for the veterans.
Potts said already has offers from groups willing to provide food to stock the pantries and provide other assistance. Cress is also working with local veterans’ organizations and others to raise money to help furnish the households.
A homeless veteran who may qualify ó or anyone who knows of a veteran who may qualify ó should contact Hattie Johnson at the VA Medical Center at 704-638-9000, extension 3011.
Anyone wanting to donate furniture or other household goods can contact Potts or Paula Hoffman at the Rowan County Housing Authority, 704-633-8380.
Cress noted that the Housing Authority has limited storage space and won’t be able to take donations that are dropped off at the agency’s headquarters.
The program, called Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing has been in operation around the the U.S. for several years.
In April, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department jointly announced $75 million to provide permanent supportive housing for an estimated 10,000 homeless veterans nationwide.
The program links local public housing agencies with VA Medical Centers to provide supportive services and case management to eligible homeless veterans.
Potts said the vouchers are similar to Section 8 housing. The goal is to help the veterans become self-sufficient, relearn survival skills and get jobs.
The VA will closely monitor the program. If a veteran violates the rules of the program, or of the lease, officials can terminate the voucher.
HUD officials from Greensboro contacted the Rowan Housing Authority last year about possible participation in the program. Potts and Cress went to work to gain approval.
No estimates of the numbers of local homeless veterans was available Monday.
The news conference will take place at the Housing Authority office, 310 Long Meadow Drive in the Southmark Corporate Center.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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