The Board of County Commissioners continues to make helping veterans a priority, an effort we are glad to see carrying through. The latest move last week was to submit a letter of intent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive vouchers to be used specifically for veterans’ housing.
HUD announced in September $40 million in Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing funding in the form of 5,500 new vouchers to be administered in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vouchers don’t just enable access to affordable housing to veterans who may be struggling, but also an array of support services from the VA such as basic checkups and dental care.
The county wasted little time in expressing interest and was able to apply for 10 vouchers last week. Christine Kay, director of the Carroll County Department of Citizen Services, said the vouchers were previously only offered by invitation, but the state opened applications to all jurisdictions this year.
This sort of program fits in exactly with the commissioners’ mission to help veterans in the county who may be struggling to get back on their feet.
Carroll County formed the Veteran Services Program a few years back to help veterans — as well as children, widows and parents of deceased and disabled veterans — secure VA benefits they have earned, prepare and submitt pension claims and assist with denied claims and filing appeals, among other services. Carroll has also run a veterans shuttle for the past five years, facilitating transportation for veterans to regional VA health facilities.
Last year, the county commissioners voted to allow the Veterans Advisory Council access to the former U.S. Army Recruiting/Reserve Building on Malcolm Drive to study the possibility of using it as a permanent housing shelter for veterans, as well as a resource facility connecting vets with medical care, transportation and connections to job training. The project has since been taken on by the nonprofit Carroll County Veterans Independence Project.
Along those same lines, the HUD VASH vouchers will allow the commissioners to make progress in reaching their goals of eliminating veteran homelessness in Carroll.
Since August 2016, the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities has worked with 27 homeless veterans, and the county’s public housing authority has 18 self-identified veterans on its waiting list. These 10 additional vouchers will cut that number by more than half. It should also free up general vouchers — used to assist other veterans, seniors and the homeless — to move up in the county’s priority list to find housing.
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We applaud the county commissioners for continuing to find new ways to take care of those among us who have bravely stepped up to defend our country only to fall on hard times.