Gov. looks to end veterans’ homelessness

 Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, veterans, veterans’ advocates and local, state and federal officials, today laid out several of his proposals aimed at combatting veterans’ homelessness and unemployment in Connecticut, a press release from his office announced. The initiatives, whichMalloy introduced last week, focus specifically on working with public and private sector partners to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015 by assisting veterans with employment and increasing residential opportunities for homeless veterans or those at risk of becoming homeless, said the release.

“We know that homelessness and unemployment are intrinsically linked and part of a terrible downward spiral that captures too many people, especially veterans,” said Malloy, according to the press release. “President Obama set a realistic deadline to end veterans’ homelessness in the United States – a goal we are fully committed to and capable of achieving. By working together with our public and private sector partners and investing in giving Connecticut’s veterans access to steady employment and safe housing, we will move our state significantly closer toward ensuring that every veteran can get back on their feet, back under a roof, and back to work.” 

 In his State of the State address last Thursday, the release from the governor’s office said Malloy outlined several legislative initiatives that re-affirm Connecticut’s commitment to ending veterans’ homelessness by 2015. The governor’s proposals include:

 Planning for the Future and Enhancing Residential Options for Veterans at Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Rocky Hill – this initiative will set aside $500,000 to support a review of existing state facilities to determine how they can be put to their best use for veterans, with a deadline of October 2014. An additional $1.4 million to match a federal grant that will finance code improvements at the campus’ facilities;

Veterans’ Employment Opportunity Pilot – $600,000 for grants to area housing agencies for employment specialists and job developers to actively seek opportunities for veterans to reenter the workforce;

Security Deposit Guarantees for Veterans – $50,000 to increase availability of security deposit assistance for homeless veterans;

Victory Gardens affordable housing development – $289,109 for supportive services for 74 units of housing dedicated to at-risk veterans and their families in Newington.

According to the most recent Point in Time count, the release said, there are an estimated 4,500 homeless people in Connecticut, of which approximately 11 percent are homeless veterans in temporary housing or living on the streets. In 2012, an estimated 1,000 veterans in Connecticut spent at least one night homeless.

 “I strongly believe the state must do everything in its power to help these brave men and women have a roof over their head and access to employment opportunities,” said Wyman, according to the governor’s office.  “It is our obligation to honor the sacrifice they made by supporting them and their families – and these proposals will do just that.”

 In 2009, the release reported, President Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki announced a national goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015. Obama asked partners and supporters nationwide to embrace this pledge in order to build on the progress the VA has made by increasing programs and funding to help veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Since the announcement, the release said the number of homeless veterans in the U.S. has dropped by 17.2 percent. In fiscal 2013, the release VA will dedicate $1.4 billion to specialized homeless programs and $4.4 billion to health care for veterans who are homeless.

 “For the last several months, the Connecticut Heroes Project has been engaged with the Governor’s Office in a discussion around our shared mission to end veteran homelessness,” said Greg Behrman, founder and director of the CT Heroes Project, reported the release. “In his State of the State address, Governor Malloy announced a series of robust, smart, and targeted proposals to end veteran homelessness by 2015. These proposals are perfectly in line with the needs of veterans experiencing homelessness in our state today, and we are very excited to work with the Governor and the legislature to implement them in the coming months.”

 The governor’s news release said Malloy highlighted one initiative in his budget proposal, a Veterans’ Opportunity Pilot, which provides $600,000 for grants to area housing agencies to hire job placement specialists trained to understand the employment challenges and advantages unique to veterans. The specialists will work with veterans to actively seek opportunities for veterans to reenter the workforce. The pilot program will also designate a statewide coordinator from the Department of Labor (DOL) to manage the complex network of employment services for veterans. The governor also will increase the availability of the state’s security deposit assistance program by adding funding to the program and prioritizing homeless veterans – a move that could help around 100 veterans get over the first hurdle of finding a home.

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