Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (right) talks with VFW Post 5255 Commander John Veverka after Isakson announced a federal grant awarded to Action Ministries & HOPE Atlanta at the VFW Post 5255 Monday morning in Lawrenceville.
Two metro-Atlanta non-profits have received a $1 million Veterans Affairs grant to help veterans with housing and employment assistance.
The grant is part of a more than $100 million national program to assist veterans and their families who face imminent eviction or are currently homeless.
“I’ve got friends who are still on active duty, and when they get out, they are going to have problems,” said Mark Mills of Dacula, a four-year Army veteran who spent a year in Afghanistan. “I was only in for four years, and I had problems.”
Atlanta-based Action Ministries will partner with HOPE Atlanta to assist some 400 local veterans and their families in 35 counties.
There are an estimated 2,000 homeless veterans in the 16-county Atlanta metro region, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates veterans make up 23 percent of the nation’s homeless population.
News of the grant was announced Monday before at gathering of veterans and government and military at VFW Post 5255 in Lawrenceville.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who serves on the Senate Committtee on Veterans’ Affairs, said, fewer than 1 percent of Americans are now serving in the military. The remaining 99 percent owe all their freedom to veterans, he said.
“We must continue to honor them, not just when they serve and wear the uniform, but when they return home to America, many in need of services,” he said.
John R. Moeller, president and CEO of Action Ministries, said that through many parts of Georgia there are no coordinated efforts to provide housing and services to veterans.
“As troops are withdrawn from Iraq and then Afghanistan, we expect to see an increase in the number of veterans in need of housing support services, especially given high metro-Atlanta and rural unemployment and foreclosure rates,” he said.
Assistance agencies are often struck by how little veterans know about the benefits they qualify for, said Edward Powers, executive director of HOPE Atlanta. Most commonly, he said, veterans are more focused on day-to-day living.
“As a Vietnam veteran myself, I know what it’s like to leave the world of the military behind and face a world that can be strange and overwhelming,” Powers said.
Mills, the Afghanistan veteran, said he hopes the word gets out.
“It’s hard for us to ask for help because we ask our buddies for help,” he said. “We rely on each other,” he said.
For more information on the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program call the Action Ministries intake line, 1-888-206-7372.