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2:00 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Veteran homelessness: County partnerships ready to end it

Dave Wolf, director of the Mohave County Community Services Department, says the HUD-VASH program couldn’t be successful without the partnership between the staffs of the VA Medical Center and the Mohave County Housing Authority, listed from left to right are VA VASH and housing authority staff: Sandy Henderson, Ed Shier, Rebecca Ligori, Jennifer Rossini, Sheri Felts-Taylor, Jamie Hinz, Mercedes Nielsen, Chanania Covington, and Terry Baughn. (Photo courtesy Mohave County Community Services Department)

Dave Wolf, director of the Mohave County Community Services Department, says the HUD-VASH program couldn’t be successful without the partnership between the staffs of the VA Medical Center and the Mohave County Housing Authority, listed from left to right are VA VASH and housing authority staff: Sandy Henderson, Ed Shier, Rebecca Ligori, Jennifer Rossini, Sheri Felts-Taylor, Jamie Hinz, Mercedes Nielsen, Chanania Covington, and Terry Baughn. (Photo courtesy Mohave County Community Services Department)

KINGMAN – Homelessness of Mohave County veterans is being addressed now more than ever thanks to numerous programs and services, prompting Dave Wolf, director of the Mohave County Community Services Department, to say “this is the best time” for veteran resources.

One such resource for veterans that continues to increase in funding is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program. According to Wolf, this program provides referrals and ongoing case management for homeless veterans. The VA provides case management while the county offers rental assistance for housing.

“The 30 years I’ve been in Mohave County, and working with Mohave County the last 28 years in these programs, this is the best time as far as resources,” Wolf explained.

In April, the program added 15 vouchers to the 126 it already had for housing homeless veterans. Then in September, Wolf said Mohave County Housing Authority got word that funding for HUD-VASH would be increased even more. The program received 39 additional vouchers, bringing the total to 165, about $840,000 annually in rental assistance for veterans and their families.

“It is a HUD priority on the housing end to eliminate homelessness for veterans. That’s a national priority,” Wolf said.

Approximately two-thirds of the veterans participating in the program are older, Vietnam War veterans. Wolf said these individuals are getting sick, developing medical issues, and can no longer be homeless. The program also reaches out to the country’s younger servicemen and women.

“We do want to help our recent veterans that are struggling with homelessness issues, PTSD and other things, but it is tough sometimes to get the younger vets to come in for services,” Wolf said.

One example Wolf gave referred to a younger veteran who opted not to participate in the housing program because he didn’t want to take that opportunity away from another veteran.

However, Wolf said that should not be a concern because “we have enough funding to do it all.”

“If somebody is a veteran struggling with homelessness, it’s important that they get a hold of the VA,” Wolf said, having previously noted that the county could lose funding if vouchers aren’t utilized.

Mary Mendola, one-stop coordinator with Mohave County, said she asks veterans hesitant to enter the program to think about their families.

“Do you want your kids living in a place that’s really not suitable for human habitation? There’s a pathway, it doesn’t have to be permanent, but we can do some wrap-around services with maybe some job training, some supportive services, housing on a temporary basis with a plan to self-sufficiency,” Mendola said.

She said services available to Mohave County veterans were earned by their service to the county.

“This is part of our country wanting to support our veterans, take care of our veterans, reward them for their service to their country,” Mendola said.

One of those wrap-around services is the Veterans Workforce Program, which aims to get veterans thinking about career goals while providing support to help make those goals achievable.

“This allows them to be retrained for a civilian career. It could be either classroom training or work-based training,” she said, specifically noting careers in HVAC, truck driving, construction and health care.

However, there is one glaring obstacle facing the HUD-VASH – rising housing costs and local landlords no longer working with the program.

Wolf said the housing authority could amend its five-year plan to do project-basing vouchers in an effort to bring more affordable housing to the county and especially to the Kingman area.

“And what this allows us to do is encourage construction and development of new affordable housing,” he said.

If those efforts pan out they would likely take two years to get up and running, Wolf said.

“So we need landlords to work with us now,” he added. “If they truly want to show their patriotism, this is a way they can. Help these homeless veterans, and they’re going to get a guaranteed rent payment.”