In a promise to address homelessness among veterans living in the city, mayor Jose “Joey” Torres plans to make use of a federal veteran housing voucher program to provide housing to homeless veterans.
Torres is simply adding the city to a list of other cities around the country, who have joined Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The challenge brings together the services of several federal agencies: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the Interagency Council on Homelessness (USCIH), and the National League of Cities, according to a press release issued by HUD.
“I am proud to join hundreds of Mayors across the country and increase our ongoing efforts towards ensuring that every veteran in Paterson has a home in 2015,” said Torres in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with state and local leaders and focusing our resources to end homelessness in our city and our country.”
Tony Vancheri, president of the Paterson Veteran’s Council, estimates hundreds of homeless veterans in the city, who will receive necessary help through this initiative.
“He’s always been supportive of everything we’ve done for the veterans,” said Vancheri. “We have to see how many homeless veterans we have in Paterson.”
Although Vancheri estimates the homeless population in the hundreds, an exact figure has yet to be produced.
HUD intends to increasingly issue more housing vouchers to homeless veterans through HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, a rental assistance program run in conjunction with the VA.
The agency has already issued 48 vouchers to the city. “HUD welcomes and applauds Mayor Torres’ commitment to ending veteran homelessness in Paterson by 2015,” said Holly Leicht, HUD regional administrator for New York and New Jersey. “The brave men and women of the military, who have given so much to protect our lives and liberty, deserve to have a place they can call home.”
Leicht said the challenge aligns all levels of government for a mission to end homelessness among veterans for good.
“We work closely with the Passaic County, State, and non-profit entities that receive HUD federal funding to assist the homeless population, and I’m confident that they are also committed to this challenge,” added Maria Maio-Messano, HUD New Jersey field office director. “With increased focus on Paterson’s veteran homeless population, together we can make sure needed services continue to reach the men, women, and families that need the support that only a stable home can provide.”
Not all veterans are cooperative as government attempts to provide them assistance. Vancheri said there are veterans, who simply want to be left alone. He cited a group of veterans, who are often observed standing with signs off Union Avenue near West Broadway.
“We’ve already tried to help those guys that are on West Broadway and Union Avenue down there,” said Vancheri. “They refused help, they are afraid to go into shelters.”
Vancheri said he connected them to the Catholic Charities which received $1.7 million in federal money last year to help veterans.
Details of how the mayor intends to reach out to homeless veterans and actually provide them housing was not related in the announcement.
Torres could not be reached on Friday.
“Veteran homelessness can be solved if we all work together with federal and local resources to meet the challenge,” said Torres.