The Middlesex County Veterans Services Program received a national award for best exemplifying private-public coordination and leveraging resources to assist homeless veterans.
This creative and collaborative County-run program was established by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and works in partnership with federal, state, local and non-profit groups to help veterans in need.
Since its inception 18 months ago, the Veterans Housing Assistance Program (VHAP), the only one in the State, has helped over 65 veterans and their families with housing assistance, employment, and follow-up case management.
“I am extremely proud of the success of this program and of our partnerships with so many groups to help our veterans,” said Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “Our veterans have put themselves into harm’s way to preserve our freedom. It is our duty and privilege to help them when they get back home to get them the services they need.”
The County program, funded through a portion of the County’s Homelessness Trust Fund, was awarded the 2014 Meritorious Service Award from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), an organization based in Washington D.C.
Accepting the award on behalf of the County were: Doug Breen, Middlesex County Veterans Services Coordinator; Henry Busby, Veterans Services assistant; and Bob Porter, VFW Post #370 representative and VFW District Eight Employment Officer.
In his nomination letter to NCHV, Michael Goff, Commander of District 8 of the New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars, wrote: “Middlesex County Veterans Services and its partners are being nominated for the NCHV Partnership award because of the innovative and efficient collaboration with organizations throughout the county. Without these partnerships, many clients would not receive the assistance they need in a realistic and beneficial timeframe. Middlesex County is a model for creating new programs and forming connections…”
One example of this collaborative partnership is how the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders worked with the County’s Veterans Services program to institute the Veterans Housing Assistance Program (VHAP).
So far, more than 65 homeless and near-homeless veterans from all walks of life and in various life situations have received assistance with security deposits, rental arrears and rental payments.
“It is important to realize that before the VHAP program was instituted by the Freeholders, homeless or soon-to-be-homeless veterans really had no viable options when it came to receiving help,” Commander Goff wrote. “There were no specific programs in existence on the local, state, or national level designed to meet their diverse needs.”
One example: While funding is available on the federal level to assist homeless veterans, eligibility guidelines often preclude members of the National Guard or reserves from applying. The County program makes no distinction other than requiring an honorable or general discharge, regardless of length of service.
Currently, Middlesex County is the only county in New Jersey that has such a program.
“Our staff knows how important it is to partner with various groups to provide services to our veterans, especially when it comes to housing and during emergency situations,” said Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, chair of the Community Services Committee and longtime advocate for homeless assistance.
“The County is successfully collaborating with all levels of government, not-for-profit, religious and veterans’ organizations and even Middlesex County College to ensure that the myriad needs are met.”
Middlesex County Veterans Services partners include: the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Middlesex County Veterans Advisory Council (MCVAC), the County’s Veterans Housing Assistance Program (VHAP), Supportive Services for Veteran Families providers (We Soldier On and Community Hope), the New Brunswick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, New Brunswick Elks Lodge 324, the New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars (NJVFW), the Wounded Warriors Project, the Woodbridge Veterans Alliance, the John Basilone Marine Corps League Detachment 190, Middlesex County College, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, the New Jersey Department of Labor, the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Vet to Vet, Jewish Renaissance Foundation, the Salvation Army and Home Front Hearts.
For more information on the program, call 732-745-4051.