Zeldin fights to lock in grants for housing to help homeless veterans

Funding for a program that provides grants to organizations that support low-income and homeless veteran families would be made permanent under legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) on Wednesday.

The Supportive Services Veteran Families (SSVP) program provides grants to nonprofit groups and consumer cooperatives that aid veterans with services like case management, help obtaining and coordinating benefits, and temporary financial assistance. Program funding is slated to expire at the end of 2017, but Zeldin’s H.R. 3680 would permanently extend the program.

“The SSVF program is fundamental to our efforts to end veteran homelessness as it enables organizations across the country to provide shelter and essential services to members of the veteran community in need,” Zeldin said. “Extending these grants affirms our commitment to ending veteran homelessness across the country and preserves the important programs that so many of our veterans rely upon. Ensuring our homeless veterans have shelter and a safe place to live should never be a partisan issue.”

There were 39,471 homeless veterans in the United States on a single night in January 2016, and although veterans account for 9 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 11 percent of the country’s total adult population, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“These brave men and women answered the call to service and repeatedly put their lives at risk to support and defend our Constitution and ensure the safety and security of our country,” Zeldin said. “Although homelessness among veterans has decreased since 2010, the issue remains one of national significance — even one homeless veteran is too many.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued $587.3 million through 367 individual SSVF grants to organizations so far this year.

Tom Ronayne, the director of the Suffolk County, New York, Veterans Service Agency, noted that Suffolk County has one of the largest veteran populations in the country.

“SSVF has enabled countless veterans to either remain in familiar living environments or provide them with opportunities to get into a safer, more secure and stable living environment,” Ronayne said. “The ripple effect of this is that veterans and their family members remain employed or become more employable. We are very concerned that SSVF remains in place … “