The federal government has cut millions of dollars in funding for veteran programs, and Rochester’s Veterans Outreach Center is one of those affected.
The Center received an annual $2 million grant to help local veterans secure and search for housing. It's a grant they've received for the past six years but they're now one of 36 grantees to see funding loss as the Veteran Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program was down-scaled dramatically.
“It was a surprise for everybody,” said Tom Bertram, Director of Operations for the Center. He said it’s primarily due to restructuring in the federal Veteran Affairs department in Washington, D.C.
The Center used this grant last year to help more 500 families of veterans secure housing. 78 vets were placed in transitional or emergency housing, according to their website.
Bertram said the local center has restructured staff and sites to ensure local vets wouldn’t feel the brunt of this funding loss.
“With closing that [Buffalo] site down and reorganizing the staff a little bit we were able to make the impact not as harsh for the organization,” Bertram said. He added veterans can still use the VOC resources.
The center has restructured but also identified other streams of revenue and it partners with other community organizations to meet veteran needs. Bertram said working in non-profits, grants come and go and they have to ensure vets don’t feel the crunch.
“It’s going to be business as usual really. It’s going to be no different than what it was before. Vets are still going to come in. They're going to talk with our case managers if they're coming in for a specific service, whether it’s employment, training, education. Whatever that’s still going to be offered. Everything that’s up on the website for the services we provide are still going to be available to veterans in the area.”
Bertram said about 90 percent of the funding gap has been filled in and the VOC will be able to continue meeting the needs of area veterans.