Vouchers will help homeless veterans

30 in Vancouver area will secure housing

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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An additional 30 homeless veterans in the Vancouver area will get housing over the next year through a federal program.

"This is really good news," said Sasha Nichelson, program director with the Vancouver Housing Authority.

The VHA will receive $155,347 to provide housing vouchers through funding announced Wednesday.

The agency will work with the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, through its Vancouver VA campus, in administering the program.

Veterans Affairs officials provide case management and supportive services.

Each voucher "represents a year's rent for someone who has sacrificed for our nation but is now struggling to find housing," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a news release announcing the funding.

The 30 additional vouchers will expand a program that currently enables 70 veterans to find housing in the Vancouver rental market.

The VHA and Veterans Affairs also team up to house 30 other local veterans at a residential site on the Vancouver VA campus.

The Vancouver Housing Authority's expanded voucher program is a result of the 2012 "point in time" estimate of homeless people, Nichelson said.

The increase also reflects "how well we have utilized our previous vouchers," Nichelson said. "We were able to lease them up quickly, and keep them leased."

Participating vets who rent privately owned housing through the voucher program generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.

The homeless veterans include men and women; some are single, and others have families.

The VA is the starting point for the housing program. VA officials meet with homeless veterans, then refer them -- based on a variety of criteria -- to the housing authority. The VA also helps the veterans through the voucher process, and assists in the transition when they've moved in.

Representatives of the two agencies were scheduled to meet today to discuss implementing the expanded program, Nichelson said.

Increasing the tenant program from 70 veterans to 100 shouldn't require much of a ramp-up, she said.

"We're continually moving people in," she said. "People leave, so it's a continual process."

The local vouchers are part of $75 million in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program.

According to the January 2012 "point in time" survey, there were 62,619 homeless veterans in the U.S.; it marked a 7.2 percent decrease -- 4,876 fewer homeless vets -- since the January 2011 survey.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com