Merced County given more housing vouchers for veterans

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By Thaddeus Miller

An additional $80,000 in Department of Housing and Urban Development money will help Merced County provide an extra 15 housing vouchers for veterans, according to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Since 2012, the program has provided 25 homeless veteran vouchers locally through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, and the county will be able to add more vouchers with the new cash.

“Our veterans have honored our nation through their service to our country’s armed forces, putting the needs of our nation above their own,” Costa said. “We must ensure that they have a place to call their own and the tools necessary to lead productive lives.”

According to a homeless count from earlier this year, there are 45 homeless veterans in Merced, many of whom have been homeless for longer than a year.

The vouchers are given to the Merced County Housing Authority and overseen by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Efforts to connect homeless people with government and other available services is the job of the Merced County Continuum of Care, which is overseen by Urban Initiatives.

Joe Colletti, executive director of Urban Initiatives, said the continuum has begun work to help get the new vouchers to Merced County veterans who need them. Continuum has a focus to find housing for the “chronically” homeless veterans, he said, noting that is not a requirement to qualify for the vouchers.

Chronically homeless veterans are those living on the street for more than a year or repeatedly homeless over a three-year period and dealing with a “disabling condition.” That condition could include a physical or mental disability, a substance abuse problem or other factors.

Colletti said the county needs the new vouchers because, as of earlier this month, there are 24 veterans using the original batch of vouchers. The 25th voucher is also close to housing another veteran, he said.

Veterans who receive a voucher are required to pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income on their rent – indefinitely. The voucher picks up the rest of the tab.

Along with housing, the funding helps cover other assistance the veterans need, said Rennise Ferrario, executive director of the Merced County Housing Authority.

“The funding provides a critical resource in addressing homelessness among veterans in our community,” she said in a press release.

Also awarded new funding this month was the Fresno Housing Authority, which was given $121,319 for veteran housing.

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