Dept. of Veterans Affairs awards $900k in homeless prevention grants

Updated: Friday, August 22 2014, 09:22 PM MDT
Dept. of Veterans Affairs awards $900k in homeless prevention grants story image

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced they'll be awarding more than $900,000 in grant money that will go toward preventing homelessness among veterans in the Borderland.

Through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant, the VA aims to assist more than 200 veteran families who are either homeless or at risk of losing their homes.

The funds will help veterans with food stamps, rent and utility payments, and transportation.

The VA money will also go to help pay staff at veteran housing centers to better assist veterans with applying for housing and disability.

Veteran housing programs in El Paso, Dona Ana County, and the city of Las Cruces will benefit from this grant.

The Mesilla Valley Community of Hope received $116,000 in grant money.

This is the second year the center has received this grant. Last year as a result of the grant, the center successfully moved 43 veterans out of homelessness.

"We did see a huge influx but because of having this grant, we've been able to help so many, that the numbers have become fewer," said Nicole Martinez, director of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. "Our goal is to
end homelessness so for us that's really good news."

The director said the Community of Hope works with the Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority to house homeless veterans in a complex that rents apartments to veterans only.

She said the grant money helps pay for staff that will assist veterans living at the complex with money management and making their rent on time.

"It's a big deal," Martinez said. "It would be much more difficult for us to serve the amount of veterans if we didn't have this grant. I wondered back, how were we doing it before."

Fidel Patterson, a veteran from Las Cruces, has been living in the center's "tent city" for the last two months.

The 55-year-old Vietnam veteran said he has worked odd jobs the last several years, but it's been difficult to stay on his feet.

"Due to finances I've been homeless on and off ever since," Patterson said. "I suffer from a number of health problems that this kind of environment is really not conducive."

Patterson said he hopes this new grant will help get him out of the tent and into a more stable home.

"It's just a matter of time, I won't give up," Patterson said.

Martinez said the Community of Hope's goal is to get a total of 50 veterans out of homelessness by Sept. 30.

Dept. of Veterans Affairs awards $900k in homeless prevention grants
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