SCHUMER: FORMERLY HOMELESS VETERANS AT LI’s LIBERTY VILLAGE ARE CAUGHT IN CATCH-22 THAT COULD MEAN LOSS OF LEGAL, JOB-TRAINING & OTHER CRITICAL SERVICES; URGES THE FEDERAL DEPT. OF HOUSING TO REVERSE DENIAL OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN RENTAL ASSISTANCE THAT LIBERTY VILLAGE NEEDS TO COVER COST OF RENT & SUPPORT SERVICES
Liberty Village’s Housing Complex Provides Sixty Apartments to Previously Homeless LI Veterans & Their Families and Organization Needs Special Housing & Urban Development (HUD)Vouchers In Order to Fully Serve Veterans With Top-Rate Services & Coverage of Rent, Utility Costs
Liberty Village Applied Last Year for 30 HUD Rental Assistance Vouchers & After Slow Review and Initial Denial of Liberty Village’s Application, the Organization Rightly Brought Vets in Off the Street; HUD Has Since Determined These Vets Are No Longer Homeless & Therefore No Longer Eligible
Schumer Urges HUD to Reverse Course & Provide Rental Assistance to Liberty Village, Which They Are Eligible For; Liberty Village Has Been Forced to Reprogram Funding From Job-Training, Legal & Occupational Services In Order to Fill Funding Gap
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately reconsider its decision to deny 30 rental assistance vouchers to Amityville’s Liberty Village, which houses a total of 60 formerly homeless veterans and their families. The HUD-VASH program shares a critical goal with Liberty Village: to combine housing voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services to help them live independently with their families. Schumer explained that since March of 2014, Concern for Independent Living (CIL), the non-profit organization that manages Liberty Village, has experienced a series of bureaucratic hurdles and denials in its application for the 30 HUD-VASH vouchers that the organization needs to fully serve these Long Island veterans. Schumer highlighted that the organization ultimately faced a bureaucratic catch-22: CIL’s Liberty Village application was denied because the housing organization did not leave the homeless veterans and their families on the street until the application was fully processed, and therefore, the individuals were no longer technically homeless.
After first applying in March, Concern for Independent Living was unexpectedly notified that they had not been approved for the vouchers. While this posed a serious financial burden on Concern for Independent Living, they moved ahead and rented out all of the units at Liberty Village, while reapplying for this funding. Schumer applauded the organization for their efforts to bring these veterans and their families off the street and into a warm and safe environment, which also complied with Low Income Housing Tax Credit requirements. Schumer explained that in October 2014, the organization was told that they were approved for thirty HUD-VASH vouchers due to a second round of funding. But then, just this month, HUD wrote in a letter that “the occupied units cannot be converted to HUD-VASH PBV units as they are occupied and the veterans are no longer homeless”.
“Our veterans put it all on the line for our country and we should be doing everything possible to make sure they get the assistance and supportive services they need to live fully independent, healthy and successful lives,” said Senator Schumer. “Liberty Village has provided sixty veterans and their families with a comfortable place to live that they can truly call home. It is without a doubt that Concern for Independent Living did the right thing by moving these homeless veterans into a warm, safe environment once these housing units were complete, and it’s mindboggling that they are now being penalized for doing so. HUD needs to reverse course immediately and approve this much-needed rental assistance so that Liberty Village is not forced to choose between paying for rent and utilities and providing these homeless veterans with mental health care, job training and other critical services.”
The North Amityville Armed Forces Reserve Center was operational until late 2011 and Concern for the Independent Living, a well-established not-for-profit affordable housing developer, took control of the property in order to build a new housing project. Concern for Independent Living’s Liberty Village consists of 60 units of handicap accessible affordable housing, dedicated to veterans and their families. Schumer has always been a strong supporter of Liberty Village. Specifically, in 2012, Schumer pushed for the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to move forward with the transfer of land to CIL, without delay. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Town of Babylon then signed off on the lease transfer and rezoning requirements, and CIL received approval from the Department of Defense just before New York State Home and Community Renewal tax credits, crucial funding for the project, were set to expire.
Although Concern for Independent Living had all the capital funds necessary to build Liberty Village, the organization requires federal and state funding in order to maintain full operations. Concern for Independent Living relies on the New York State Office of Mental Health funds to cover property costs, and Concern for Independent Living has sought these 30 Project-Based HUD-VASH vouchers to provide critical support services, while keeping rent affordable for these at-risk veterans.
Schumer today urged HUD to reverse course and approve 30 Project Based HUD-VASH vouchers for Liberty Village. Schumer explained that without these vouchers Liberty Village must reprogram funding to rent and utilities that is normally intended for critical legal, occupational, job-training and other support services to the residents. Liberty Village provides “supportive housing,” which means that homeless veterans and their families are provided with a caseworker that assists them along the path toward re-entering the workforce. The caseworker sets the veteran up with an array of services depending on the client’s needs. Specifically, services include: mental illness counseling, physical disability rehab and help with alcohol and drug dependency issues. The caseworkers follow up with tenants to ensure they make appointments and will help secure transportation if needed. These services are critical to ensuring that residents live in a healthy, independent and stable way. Liberty Village also provides 24-hour security on site to ensure the safety of residents, which has become increasingly important as there are a number of residents who are physically handicapped and are able to reach the security desk via telephone. Schumer today reiterated that Concern for Independent Living did the right thing by moving these veterans into comfortable, safe homes and they should not be penalized and forced to reprogram funding from these services to “real estate” costs, like rent and utilities.
Schumer also noted that without full HUD support for Liberty Village and its veterans, veterans will graduate out of this housing space more slowly and less homeless veterans will be able to move in. The United States Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs estimate that over 67,000 veterans are homeless in America on any given night. More disturbingly, while only eight percent of the general population in the United States can claim veteran status, nearly one fifth of the homeless population is made up of veterans. While precise numbers of homeless veterans are difficult to establish, according to the Suffolk Continuum of Care’s 2011 Point-in-Time Count, more than 2,300 individuals in Suffolk County were homeless on any given night, with more than 320 of them identified as veterans. The VA Medical Center at Northport estimated in their 2009 CHALENG Report there were nearly 600 homeless vets on Long Island, while Concerned for Independent Living believes the number is likely closer to 1,000.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to HUD is available upon request.