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Gov. Wolf: Veteran homelessness in Warren County ‘effectively ended’

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced on Friday that Warren County is among 20 counties where homelessness for veterans has been “effectively ended.”

The local department of Veterans Affairs has seen the need and been there to help but can’t confirm that veteran homelessness isn’t still an issue.

“We here in Warren County have had homeless veterans come in but with help from what was the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and now Soldier On we have been, for the most part, been able to find homes for them,” said Ed Burris, department head of Warren County Veterans Affairs. “Is this to say we don’t have any right now, I can’t answer that. If they don’t seek help then we don’t know there is a need for help.”

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program at Soldier On is a door-to-door outreach campaign assisting veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Wolf announced on Friday that the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs confirmed that the Western Pennsylvania Continuum of Care (Pa CoC) has effectively ended homelessness for veterans in 20 counties, including Warren, Armstrong, Butler, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Fayette, Forest, Green, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Venango, Washington, and Westmoreland.

The press release from Wolf’s office stated, “This is the first multi-county plan to effectively end veteran homelessness in Pennsylvania.”

“With this announcement, the U.S. government has verified and affirmed that the Western PA CoC, through its efforts, will continue to ensure veteran homelessness is a rare, brief, and one-time occurrence,” Wolf said. “It has been my goal since I took office to reduce veteran homelessness and we have made progress. It is my hope that the example set by the Western PA CoC becomes a model and inspiration for the rest of the state so we can end veteran homelessness commonwealth-wide.”

The Western PA CoC governing board worked with the veteran’s subcommittee — a group consisting of partners from the VA Medical Centers, the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program providers, Grant and Per Diem providers, Veterans Integrated Service Network 4, the Continuum of Care housing and services providers, veterans’ services providers, HUD technical assistance providers, local landlords, and the state departments of Community and Economic Development and Military and Veterans Affairs — to identify homeless veterans and provide them with immediate access to housing by using a Housing First model, creating a sustainable infrastructure for housing, and increasing and streamlining the availability of permanent housing and support services.

Soon after taking office, Wolf challenged all commonwealth agencies and communities to reduce veteran homelessness by 40 percent in the last 100 days of 2015.

“That first challenge resulted in reducing the state’s veteran homeless population by more than 500 and since then we’ve made good, steady progress,” Wolf said. “Veterans are a population at risk for homelessness, and as they have protected us, it is incumbent upon us to protect them in turn.”

“I believe that Pennsylvania has many different agencies working to assist veterans with not only housing but with many issues that they are faced with when they return home,” Burris said. “If they are looking for assistance please have them contact my office.”

Warren County Department of Veterans Affairs can be reached at 814-728-3478.

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