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Thu, Aug. 22

VA given vouchers to benefit vets, need exceeds resources

PRESCOTT – Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System was recently awarded a new supply of federally subsidized housing vouchers targeted to homeless veterans: 10 assigned to Yavapai County.

The allotment for the whole northern Arizona region that serves more than 26,000 veterans ranging from Lake Havasu City and Kingman to Flagstaff and Native American tribal land was 50 new vouchers. Those are added to an existing allotment of 227 vouchers – 70 in the Prescott area – and another 35 for a pilot project with the Navajo and Hopi tribes.

The VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program Director Ed Shier is always happy to have housing options for veterans that show up at their door. But he is clear this should not be seen as a cure-all.

“Word gets out that we got 10, and we get 100 referrals,” said Shier, who applied for 30 but wanted double that number.

Before the ink was signed on the paperwork for these latest vouchers, the local VA’s 32-member homeless services team was assigning these latest vouchers to folks who have emerged at the top of their priority lists based on their circumstances, including length of homelessness, income eligibility, family size, medical and mental health needs, Shier said.

Often, Shier said, it is a first-come, first-serve deal, with bureaucratic strings attached.

Eligible homeless veterans must be willing to accept voucher conditions that require they find suitable rentals that do not exceed the federal maximum rent requirements. They must also sign a one-year lease and accept ongoing case management services.

Some veterans bristle at the restrictions; others wrestle with the limited housing stock that makes finding rent-suitable apartments a difficult proposition, Shier said.

The maximum rent for a single individual cannot exceed $722 a month. The veteran is required to pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward that amount; some have military pensions, disability coverage or have a job. Thirty of the 227 veterans who now have vouchers have no income, Shier said.

These vouchers, officially known as HUD-VASH (Veteran Affairs Supportive Services), are also not transferrable to places outside the county where they are issued. Traditional federal subsidized housing vouchers can be used anywhere an individual or family may opt to locate.

Since the HUD-VASH program started in 2008, some 85,000 vouchers have been awarded nationwide; $60 million was allocated for 2016 to serve some 8,000 veterans and their families.

Shier has no guarantee about when, or if, more vouchers will be forthcoming.

For more information, call 928-445-4860, ext. 5288.

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