By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 10-county region that includes Charlotte is home to an estimated 153,000 military veterans or more, and over 1,000 of them are homeless.
Over 25,000 of them are considered “very low income,” meaning their annual income in the region is $32,000 a year or less for a family of four, and nearly 3,100 of those families are at risk of becoming homeless.
Community Link, a Charlotte nonprofit that served nearly 11,800 people in the fiscal year ended June 30 with services in the areas of housing, home ownership education and counseling, and financial literacy, is launching a new program to assist homeless veterans.
With a $1.14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency is launching a new program to assist the households of 200 veterans over the next year.
“They got deployed, many of them on multiple deployments, and they had to drop everything,” says Floyd R. Davis Jr., president and CEO of Community Link. “They had to leave jobs and families and homes.”
Now, as they return home, he says, veterans have to “rebuild their lives all over again.”
And while some have families that still are intact, he says, many are returning to “family structures that have fallen apart,” and are dealing with physical and particularly emotional wounds.
The initiative aims to get homeless veterans into housing quickly and to prevent them from becoming homeless through services that include financial subsidies for rent, child care, transportation, moving expenses and other costs needed for stable housing.
Families will be referred to Community Link by the Veterans Administration, veterans groups and other local nonprofits.
Moving veterans and their families quickly into housing, a strategy known as “rapid rehousing,” will focus on veterans who “have been able to access housing but have had difficulty maintaining it because of a lack of resources,” including both financial support and support services, Davis says.
Funds from the collaborative grant also support delivery of supportive services provided by three other nonprofits.
Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont will provide families with job training and readiness, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont will help them address legal challenges and issues, and Innovative Community Resources will work with them to secure payee benefits and disability claims.
“The idea is to wrap around all these services to create stability and growth for the veteran,” says Randall C. Hitt, chief advancement officer for Community Link.
Community Link is one six agencies in North Carolina serving roughly 30 counties that are getting federal funding to help veterans’ families address issues tied to homelessness.
“These folks have put their lives on the line for our country,” Davis says. “We owe it to them to help them help themselves get reestablished as civilians, and provide the necessary services and supports that enable them to move forward with their lives.”