United Way program assists homeless veterans

The United Way of Central Alabama is searching for veterans in need of permanent housing. The organization is bringing its Priority Veteran program, which has already assisted 1,700 homeless veterans statewide, to rural areas through an effort called Project No Stone Unturned. “We’ve helped the more obvious homeless veterans who are out on the street. Now it’s getting increasingly difficult to find veterans, but we know they are out there and need help,” said Samuetta Nesbitt, senior vice president of public relations at United Way of Central Alabama. According to its website, Priority Veteran began offering services to veterans in October 2013 with a $2 million Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program assists veterans who are homeless or near homeless as the result of an eviction, house fire, divorce or other life circumstance. “One woman’s husband died, and she had a house fire. She didn’t know where to turn. Because she was a Navy veteran, we were able to help her,” Nesbitt said. In addition to helping veterans secure permanent housing, the program can offer assistance with rent, utilities and moving costs.

Case managers can also help veterans access benefits available to them because of their service. “Under the Department of Housing Resources, veterans can be granted a voucher to get temporary housing and then begin to make payments on it,” Nesbitt said. One U.S. Army veteran was living in a tent city in Huntsville when he was first approached by Priority Veteran case managers. He is now paying rent on a one bedroom apartment. However, he was initially reluctant to accept assistance from the Priority Veteran program. “It’s not in their nature always to ask for help, and they are trying to make do the best they can,” said Lula Skowronek, executive director of the program. “We want to make sure they know there really are services for them.” The program can also help veterans obtain employment and complete employment training. Priority Veteran has offices in Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee. Some case workers are located in more rural areas and are able to travel to assist veterans who lack transportation. For more information, call 866-460-3827 or visit www.uwca.org/get-help/priority-veteran.