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Nonprofit pitches housing program for homeless vets

Renewed efforts to reach out to local homeless veterans and their families came before the Pahrump Town Board this month.

U.S. VETS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides housing, employment and counseling services to the nation’s veterans from all branches of the armed forces.

Las Vegas Outreach Specialist Michael Goldberg told the board about a program benefiting veterans as well as their families.

The program offers temporary assistance to at-risk, low-income families to keep them from becoming homeless.

The grant-funded program is designed to house families as quickly as possible by providing legal counseling and financial aid for rent, utilities, moving costs and childcare, as well as bus transportation.

He noted that employment assistance and benefits counseling are also part of the program.

“The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is a housing first approach to preventing and ending homelessness among veterans. Without housing, really nothing else can occur, so we get them housing as quickly as we can. Housing is a right, not a reward,” he said.

Additionally, Goldberg said the program allows veterans to choose where they prefer to reside rather than rely only on what is available at any given time.

“We don’t force any veteran to live where they don’t want to,” Goldberg said. “In essence, we treat our veterans as customers even though they are really clients.”

Additionally, Goldberg told the board that unlike similar services, the housing program also allows for the veterans’ “significant other” to benefit as well, rather than splitting up families by gender.

“The veteran may have a girlfriend, boyfriend, cousin, grandmother, kids or wife. Whatever they want, but they have to be a veteran. I dealt with one individual who had a wife and eight children. Hopefully we will be able to help them. We were able to get them housed temporarily somewhere,” he said.

Targeting those who are eligible for assistance is another aspect of the SSVF program.

Aside from being a veteran, low income families or those who are at or below 50 percent of the area median income automatically qualify for the program as well as those who are “at risk” of becoming homeless or are already homeless.

The estimate for the number of homeless people in Southern Nevada was 33,882 in 2013, according to the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition.

Statistics from the Nevada Homeless Alliance show that more than 800 are identified as veterans and their families.

Goldberg said that Veteran Administration officials are doing more to provide for homeless veterans with families.

“The VA is definitely headed in a direction for services for veterans and their families by getting away from the per diem dormitory type of setting. They want people in apartments. A family of four qualifies as long as they are below $30,750 so it’s very reasonable,” he said.

An additional element of the program, according to Goldberg is homelessness prevention and what’s known as “rapid re-housing.”

“Our goal is for our clients to retain and keep their housing. When they sign a lease with SSVF, we can assist them from possibly one to three or as many as five months with rental or utility assistance. At that point, they are expected to take over the lease and a lot of that falls on their ability to get employment and a willingness to help themselves. We can give them guidance, but in the end, it still falls down to the family or individual,” he said.

In order to obtain and retain a suitable home, Goldberg said the program can almost guarantee a job for any veteran.

He also makes regular visits to the Pahrump Valley.

“I have been coming out here for about five months but we have not helped a veteran in Pahrump. We never ask a veteran to move to Las Vegas. We will find them an apartment here. It may be a little different employment-wise, but again, we feel we can help. Our goal is to get them housed and employed through our employment services. Trust me on this, any veteran in our SSVF program that wants to work will get a job. They will get a job,” he said.

For more information about program services, contact Goldberg at (702) 540-5361 or Lindy Cooksey at (702) 375-1660.

Board members this week also approved a Request For Proposal for the installation of the Kellogg Park water line on the south end of town as well as funding to resurface the basketball courts at Petrack Park in the amount of $15,400.

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