STOP Inc. announced recently that more than 300 formerly homeless veterans are celebrating the holidays this year in a home of their own as a result of the community action agency’s “Vet Re-Connect” program.
“In October 2013 STOP embarked on a journey to ensure that America’s heroes – U.S. veterans – have the opportunity to become gainfully and stably housed,” said STOP Inc. President and CEO, Regina P. Lawrence. “We are enormously proud to have repaid our local veterans for their service to our country by making sure that their basic human right to decent housing is met.”
STOP received grant funding through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program in 2013. STOP utilized SSVF funding to build on and expand its successful base of direct client services to intentionally serve veterans in South Hampton Roads. Through Vet Re-Connect, STOP Inc. has specifically focused on serving veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, female veterans, and senior veterans age 50 and older who are living in a homeless shelter, transitional housing or who are chronically homeless.
More than half of the veteran households that STOP served received case management services and temporary financial assistance to obtain stable housing from being previously homeless. Veterans eligible for STOP’s services must earn a gross income of 30% or below the area media income for their area, must have served at least one day active duty, and must have received an honorable discharge.
Based on the organization’s success in providing rapid re-housing to homeless veterans, STOP was requested to service Accomack and Northampton Counties, for Veterans only, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
This additional territory brings STOP’s service delivery area to nearly 4,500 square miles – over one quarter of the low- and moderate-income population in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.
In September 2014, in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to end veteran homelessness by December 2015, STOP’s SSVF program played an integral role in the Southampton Roads 100 Day Mayor’s Challenge team. With support from the Mayors of all local cities that STOP serves, the initiative provided a systematic approach among Veteran Service Providers, local Continuum of Care (CoC) organizations, and the Veterans Administration to house homeless veterans living on the streets across South Hampton Roads.
In June 2014 Governor McAuliffe committed the Commonwealth of Virginia to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, pledging to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This November the Governor announced that Virginia has been federally certified as the first state in the U.S. to functionally end veteran homelessness.
Through local community-based partners including STOP, the Commonwealth housed 1,432 homeless veterans in just one year (October 2014-November 2015). The Governor announced that the state would build off its success in housing homeless veterans to “functionally end chronic homelessness among all Virginians by the end of 2017.”
On November 24, 2015, STOP Inc.’s President and CEO received a letter of commendation, on behalf of the Organization, from The Honorable Paul D. Fraim, Mayor, City of Norfolk, which states, in part, “in 2013 STOP graciously answered the call to establish a partnership with the sole purpose of making Norfolk the first community in South Hampton Roads to support the needs of our veteran citizens enduring homelessness. Then again, in September 2014, you recommitted to meet this goal as Norfolk became one of the Commonwealth’s first cities to join with Governor Terry McAuliffe in signing onto the National Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.”
“STOP will continue to build on its strong and long history of success in serving and fighting for the basic human right of housing for veterans and civilians in South Hampton Roads,” said Charnitta Waters, STOP Vice President for Homeless Intervention and Support.
STOP Inc., which has been Supporting Transformational Opportunities for People since 1965, is the only federally-designated Community Action Agency (CAA) in South Hampton Roads.
It serves low to moderate income individuals and families in the Cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and the Counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton by providing a diverse array of supportive services including affordable housing, educational assistance for youth, home weatherization, transportation, employment training and placement, asset building and financial literacy counseling, and tax preparation.