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Commissioners support veterans housing voucher that allow 'hometown heroes to be home'

The Board of County Commissioners voted to support an initiative that would help veterans get housing.

Commissioners voted 4-0 on Thursday, Oct. 26, with Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, absent, to approve the request to submit a letter of intent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers.

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The county is looking to apply for 10 housing vouchers that would be specific to veterans, Christine Kay, director of the Carroll County Department of Citizen Services, said. A housing voucher provides financial assistance to low-income people to help them obtain housing. But this is a bit different than a standard voucher, she said, because it comes with a link to services through the department.

“They’re also receiving case management,” she added, referring to the veterans who’ll be receiving these vouchers.

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This works as an overall approach to help those veterans who need assistance get back on their feet, Kay said.

Kay said Carroll County was able to apply for this type of voucher this year because the state opened it up to all jurisdictions. Previously, they were offered by invitation only.

This type of initiative goes hand-in-hand with what Carroll is about, she said.

“The county does a lot of work around supporting veterans,” she added.

The county has a total of 649 vouchers, Kay said via email. They are broken into 25 Family Unification vouchers, 100 Non-Elderly Disabled Adults vouchers and 524 Regular Housing Choice vouchers.

The Family Unification Program and Non-Elderly Disabled vouchers are specialized vouchers, just like Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, that the public housing authority applied for and was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Danielle Yates, bureau chief of Housing and Community Connections for Carroll County Citizen Services, said via email. The vouchers can only be utilized in that capacity.

HUD VASH Coordinator Kelley Anthony said vouchers can go to any veteran who is qualified for Veterans Affairs health care.

Despite voting to move forward with the letter, Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, voiced some concern about the voucher program. Rothschild said he wanted to establish a baseline number for how many veterans are currently receiving vouchers out of the general pool and always hold that many vouchers for veterans.

“Otherwise, we’ll just start reallocating the other vouchers that are not specifically for veterans and the veterans won’t wind up with any more,” he said. “We might as well just approve 10 more generic vouchers.”

But, Kay said in a phone interview, while the county is allowed to have preferences — of which veterans, the homeless and seniors are — they can’t save or set aside vouchers for a certain person or group.

“It really depends on the individual and what their needs are,” she added.

Anthony said a Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher is unique because it gives veterans that housing, and then allows them to get other wraparound services through the VA, if they’re interested. It can help veterans get basic checkups or dental care, she added.

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But these vouchers are really special, Anthony said, because they let veterans obtain, sustain and maintain housing in the communities of their choice, she said.

“It allows veterans to actually live where they’re from or where they’d like to live,” she added. “We allow hometown heroes to be home.”

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