When many U.S. military personnel leave the service to return home, they might not have a home to return to or they wind up in the streets eventually.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says there are more than 10,000 homeless veterans nationwide, including those in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest veterans per capita rates in the country.
The VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are ramping up the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) to eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2020. The program was launched in 2008 and just announced $72.6 million in grants to public housing agencies across the country.
The Allegheny County Housing Authority will receive $217,376 for 50 vouchers for subsidized housing for homeless veterans.
"This is Section 8 housing," said Robert Gabbianelli, the housing authority's associate director of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. "The VA approves the tenant. When they feel they [homeless veterans] are ready to be issued a voucher, they send them to us."
The housing authority currently has 180 vouchers, 164 of which are now being used.
"They have to pay 30% of their income toward rent and/or utilities. In some cases, we subsidize all of the rent and they receive a subsidy to help pay their utilities," said Gabbianelli. "It all depends on what their income is."
He said once a voucher is approved the veteran has 120 days to locate housing.
"We've never had a problem with anyone on our program finding a unit," Gabbianelli said. "We also do a housing quality inspection to make sure the unit it decent, safe and sanitary."
According to Gabbianelli, some of the veterans graduate from the program when their employment/income status improves. The housing authority is to receive the 50 new vouchers before the end of May.