VA Awards $15,772,140 to Soldier On

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it has awarded a new $3 million to Soldier On, the western-Massachusetts based agency for homeless veterans, to expand its programming for Supportive Services for Veteran Families in Pittsfield and Berkshire County.

The new grant will be operational immediately and was awarded over a three-year period. It follows the award announced last month of $12,772,140 in renewed grants for Soldier On’s current SSVF programming serving veterans in 36 counties in eastern upstate and central New York, 23 counties in western Pennsylvania, 8 counties in New Jersey, 76 counties in Mississippi, and four in western Massachusetts.  Each of those areas received $2 million while the four western counties of Western Massachusetts received $772,000.

The new award was announced today by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald as part of $207 million in SSVF grants nationwide that will help an additional 70,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families that will be distributed to 82 non-profit agencies. Additional funding for targeting high-need communities with high numbers of homeless veterans is also included.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to using evidence based approaches such as SSVF to prevent homelessness and produce successful outcomes for veterans and their families,” McDonald said. “This is a program that works, because it allows VA staff and local homeless service providers to work together to address the unique challenges that make it difficult for some veterans and their families to remain stably housed.”

Soldier On received its first SSVF grant in October 2011.  It now reaches approximately 3,500 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in the five states.

Under its innovative concept, Soldier On equips teams of mobile rapid-response units that deliver its intake and supportive services directly to the veteran households. The SSVF grants enable the agency to provide supportive services, outreach in the community and, with the VA, case management, assistance with obtaining VA benefits and other services. Also covered are assistance with obtaining health care, financial planning, transportation, legal services and housing counseling. In addition, these grants may also provide temporary financial assistance for rent, security and utility deposits, utility fees, moving costs, child care, and emergency services.

“Soldier On is proud to partner with the Department of Veterans Administration in serving the veterans of Berkshire County, “Soldier On President and CEO John F. Downing said. This particular grant allows us to serve the most vulnerable of the veterans in an attempt to achieve housing stability and life-long security in the Berkshire community by utilizing VA resources in conjunction with community-based systems of care so that veterans can remain housed and not ever face homelessness again.”

“I would also like to express my gratitude for the support of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and Representatives John McGovern and Richie Neal,” Downing added.

The SSVF grants are part of the VA’s goal to end homelessness by 2015, which has been reduced by 33 percent since 2010, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. With a success rate of 84 percent, and an average cost per veteran family of only $2,480, the SSVF program is a low-cost, high-impact way to make successful interventions.

Soldier On also provides safe and supportive transitional housing for approximately 225 veterans in Pittsfield, MA and Leeds, MA, and permanent cooperative housing at its 39-unit Gordon H. Mansfield Community in Pittsfield. Its multi-faceted approach to meeting the needs of veterans also includes transitional housing for women veterans and a Women’s Wellness Center, 45 hours of weekly programming for incarcerated veterans at the Albany (NY) House of Correction, and a comprehensive transportation services program.