Catholic Charities gets $1 million grant to help homeless veterans

Published Sept. 29, 2012

Catholic Charities of St. Petersburg has won a $1 million grant aimed at beefing up housing options for homeless veterans.

The group is one of 38 around the country to receive the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awards, part of the department's effort to eradicate homelessness among veterans by 2015.

With the grant of $1,064,886, Catholic Charities will open several of its existing apartment complexes to military men, women and their families, and will also build 16 new units alongside the nonprofit's 80-unit Pinellas Hope II complex at 5726 126th Ave. N in Largo.

The nonprofit will provide a daily average of 25 temporary beds for the veterans, who will have an option to take over payment of the lease once they complete their programs. VA programs typically require that veterans move out of transitional housing after 24 months.

The grant will also cover the cost of case managers that Catholic Charities will provide to the former service members.

Catholic Charities president Frank Murphy said the program is vital to the Tampa Bay area, where soldiers returning from war flock to two veteran medical facilities. Some of them, social service advocates say, bear emotional scars that lead to substance abuse or other problems that make the transition back into mainstream society difficult.

"VA can't solve all the problems or provide all the services. It takes a community to bring them in and get what they need as far as health care, housing and education," spokesman Jason Dangel said. "Once they complete these programs, they can go find housing and contribute to society."

The grant was announced last week by U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. Application and program kickoff details for the Pinellas housing are not yet available.

Government statistics show a national count logged 67,495 homeless veterans on a single night in 2011 — 12 percent lower than the 76,000 recorded in 2010.