New program operating for veterans’ families at risk

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 10, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Operation SAVE, a new program that provides emergency assistance to veterans’ families at risk of homelessness in a three-state region served by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home, is up and running.

Serving Appalachian Veterans Effectively, a program conducted through a partnership of the local Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness, the Tennessee Valley Coalition to End Homelessness based in Knox County and the People Inc. community service organization in Abingdon, Va., began work Oct. 1 and will continue through September 2015.

Made possible by a $1 million Families Support Services grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides help with past due rent and utilities, rent and utility deposits, transportation, day care and financial management for veterans’ families who are at or below the 50 percent of median income in their communities and at risk of losing their housing.

The assistance is available to veterans’ families in 36 counties of East Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia served by the Mountain Home veterans’ hospital. Eligibility requires that “but for these services” the families would be homeless, said Dreama Shreve, executive director of the Johnson City-based ARCH organization.

“We started Oct. 1 and we started really slow. Now we’re getting the word out because we know there are a lot of veterans out there who don’t even know they are eligible for benefits,” Shreve said.

Since Oct. 1, the program has assisted 44 veterans’ families in ARCH’s Northeast Tennessee region and others in communities served by its partner organizations.

While the program will not help with past due mortgage payments, Shreve said it does include up to $1,000 in assistance with auto repairs, and fiduciary assistance to veterans who may be entitled to other government benefits.

The program was implemented in collaboration with social services program at VAMC. Terri Hall, the VAMC’s social work supervisor, said it will put more people in the field to identify and refer veterans to other services to which they may be entitled.

“It’s a wonderful outreach source,” Hall said.

According to Shreve, human service agencies in communities covered by the new program assisted more than 1,250 veterans’ families last year.

Veterans’ families who are in need of help are encouraged to call 1-877-754-8387 to determine their eligibility for assistance from Operation SAVE and other veterans programs.

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