After having served three tours in Iraq as a prison guard, Kelly Manderfield has called Cottage 16 — also known as the VETS Place Southern Center — home since March 20.
He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is relying on the program to help him get back on his feet. But now the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program is being shut down and the 28 homeless veterans are being told to use other services.
Daniel Zimmerman, secretary to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, told Manderfield and the rest of the homeless veterans that stay at Cottage 16 on Thursday that the program will close on Sept. 30.
“Zimmerman told us on Thursday that there is no extension,” Manderfield said. “Sept. 30 is the last day.”
But he also explained to the soldiers that they would be put on the top of the list for HUD’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (VASH). In the meantime, state and federal legislators want answers on why the program is being defunded.
Legislators Call On VA To Restore Funding
“I am committed to working with stakeholders to ensure Wisconsin’s veterans continue to receive the care they need. This letter will help clarify outstanding issues surrounding these grants, and will help everyone involved chart a path forward to ensure these veterans receive the assistance they deserve,” said Congressman Ryan.
Established in 1994, the Housing and Urban Development program serves homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless by offering them job training, education, counseling and rehabilitation service. HUD officials terminated the grants awarded in 1994 and 2016 with the intention of making the grant programs competitive and time-limited.
According to the Federal Register:
“The VA now has at its disposal additional homeless programs that were not in existence previously and is working in conjunction with other Federal agencies to address homelessness among Veterans.”
Ryan requested that the VA “give prompt attention” to the veterans affected by the cuts. According to Ryan’s letter:
“We also ask that you make every effort to work with the WDVA and community partners to ensure that acceptable arrangements can be secured as soon as possible to promptly assist the impacted veterans in receiving appropriate housing assistance through the other homeless programs referenced above.”
Ryan wrote that he understands the need for measurable metrics and criteria for success, but wants more information about why these programs did not qualify for the grant funding.
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) also wrote a letter to Jeffery Quarles, the director of the VA Homeless Providers GPD Program Office, explaining that the cuts “will directly impact the 49 veterans…and surely many more in the future.”
Vos, however, said he was proud of the work Zimmerman was doing to “mitigate this damaging cut in funding,” but called on the VA to restore the funding.
“These veterans have made great sacrifices in their service for our country and deserve this assistance in their time of need. They have, without question, earned it,” Vos wrote.
Homeless Veterans Waiting For Help
Meanwhile, Manderfield — and the other people in the program — have concerns about the HUD voucher program for homeless veterans. He suffers from PTSD and has no job. He’s also waiting for the VA to approve his disability request.
“They are saying that we would only have to pay up to ⅓ of income towards an apartment and for some they would pay for all of it,” he said. “But for some of these vets, we have no income or very little.”
Manderfield applied for disability through the VA in March, but hasn’t received a response.
“I need therapy and help getting on my feet…The system takes too long,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, everyone here at the Vet’s Place is as nice as they can be. Some people say it takes up to nine months. I don’t care how long it takes. Someone please tell me what’s going on.”
He’s also not the only person waiting for benefits.
“There are others,” Manderfield said. “It is quite common. Fact is Vets would recover faster if the wait wasn’t so long… leaving beds for others to use. Most apply for claims or revisions to existing claims when they get here.”
A fundraiser/walk called 22 Miles for the Veterans of Cottage 16 was started by Dan Nubury, a man who works with veterans that have PTSD.