RICHMOND, Va. — A major donation was made Thursday to the Virginia Veteran Services Foundation to help veterans without a home find a place to live.
In 2015, Virginia became the first state to “functionally end” veteran homelessness, which means there are enough resources in place to help find permanent housing. State officials say from 2014 to 2019, more than 5,100 veterans have been housed.
But there are still service members struggling to get a roof over their heads. A count of people who are homeless in the community happens twice a year and is called the “Point in Time Count.” In January, there were 447 veterans in Virginia who did not have a permanent home. This is an 8 percent decrease from 2018, state officials say.
In some circumstances, it takes time to accept assistance from others.
“It took us probably four and a half months to get him to the point that he was willing to become housed,” Carol Berg, the director of the Virginia Veterans Services Foundation’s Veteran and Family Support Program, recalled one veteran they helped. “We ended up buying him a tent and he slept in his backyard for two or three months until he could bring himself to make that change.”
The VSF is run by the Virginia Department of Veteran Services and also functions as a non-profit organization, so it can accept donations.
Virginia-based company Smithfield Foods donated $150,000 Thursday to back these services this organization provides. With this gift, the fund will have about $450,000 in it for the year.
“We all owe our veterans a great debt of gratitude,” Kenneth, the president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, said.
The fund will work with veterans to find permanent housing options and give them financial support on first month’s rent, security and utility deposits. According to state officials, in the 2018 fiscal year, 260 veterans were served. The average cost per veteran was $739. Nearly 60 percent of the funds were used for deposits.
This money is also used to help veterans who were previously homeless with rent assistance. Eighteen percent of the funds were used for this purpose in the 2018 fiscal year.
“But it’s not just the housing that we provide the veteran,” Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins said. “We also assist them with employment and we try to assist them with any healthcare needs that they have as well.”
If you are interested in donating to the Veterans Services Foundation, click here.
At the announcement Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam also said his administration is trying to create more workforce development programs so veterans can have more job training and assistance to open businesses in the Commonwealth.
A push initiated by Attorney General Mark Herring is also helping disabled veterans. Along with other attorneys general from across the country, he sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for these veterans’ student loan debt to be forgiven. As of yesterday, the President ordered his administration to make it happen.
According to the Attorney General’s office, fewer than 9,000 of the more than 42,000 eligible veterans had their loans forgiven under the old process.