September 27, 2017 06:17 PM
ROCHESTER—The federal government has cut millions of dollars in funding for the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester. A $2.1 million grant that the VOC has received annually for the last six years was not renewed for 2018. The VOC of Rochester was one of 36 previous grantees of the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program that did not get funding this year.
As a result, a program that helps veterans in seven local counties and their families find reliable housing will have to be scaled back, a satellite office the Veteran’s Outreach Center in Buffalo will be closed and some staff members may lose their jobs or be reassigned.
“I think it's dumb man, because there's a lot of homeless vets out there and they don't realize, I didn't realize until I was homeless,” says Carl Pasafiume an Army Veteran from Rochester who has had to use services offered by the VOC to help find affordable and reliable housing. He was also able to get down payment assistance through the program. Pasafiume was disappointed to hear the VOC didn’t get funding for that program this year as was his friend and fellow Army Veteran, Donald Perry. “I think that's rough, that's going to be tough for a lot of people, that's going to be bad for a lot of people,” Perry tells News10NBC.
The new executive director at the VOC, Laura Stradley, says the non-profit wasn’t told why the funding was not renewed but she suspects it’s because the VA is trying to consolidate the SSVF program. “When I heard the news, my gut reaction was to feel almost a little bit physically ill, like what does this mean for us moving forward and more importantly the vets that we serve and are so near and dear to our hearts,” Stradley told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke.
Last year alone, 575 local veterans and their families used that funding to get off the streets or stay in their homes. "We have to continue serving those veterans in this community and we will continuing serving them, so we've got to look for other ways to do this,” Stradley says.
With the federal money gone, the focus now for the VOC is trying to find community partners and donors who can make up the difference. "We have a very generous community, we have a great deal of patriotism here in Rochester and so when we got the news that we were not going to receive this funding from the VA, we were getting calls left and right from other community organizations wondering how they could continue to support us,” she says.
Pasafiume and Perry both say they don’t know where they’d be today without this kind of help. "It's tough for someone who just got out of the service and can't find a job right away, especially these guys coming back today from Afghanistan and Iraq and all that,” says Pasafiume.
The VA announced last week that 288 non-profits have been awarded $343 million in SSVF grants. A non-profit in the Syracuse area was asked to take over the VOC’s service area for this particular grant but it was not awarded any further funding to do so. Stradley says local veterans who need the help should continue to call the VOC and they will direct them to the appropriate people and place to secure the grants.
This funding situation does not impact other programs the VOC of Rochester offers like job re-training, resume assistance and wellness therapy.
News10NBC reached out to the federal lawmakers who represent our area to get their reaction to the funding cuts. We have no heard back but if you’d like to contact them their information is below.
Created: September 27, 2017 06:17 PM
Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company