First Group of Homeless Vets Receive Housing Choice Vouchers

    PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Housing Authority made Veterans Day more than a day to mourn and remember by awarding Housing Choice Vouchers to six homeless veterans - including a woman who served as a combat soldier in Iraq.

    The vouchers will enable the homeless vets to rent apartments in the private market.

    "I can think of no better way to recognize these men and women who have served our country than by helping them find permanent homes for themselves and for their families," said PHA Executive Director Carl R. Greene.

    Veterans who received their vouchers at today's Veterans Day event at PHA's Greater Grays Ferry Estates community were: Rhashida Childs, Cynthia Armstrong, George Smith, Kevin Carroll, James Davis, and Clarence Thomas. A seventh vet, Colette Coe, has also been approved for a voucher, but was not able to attend.

    Carroll, who served as a medic after the Vietnam War, and Smith, a Vietnam combat vet, have already signed leases for their new apartments. Thomas is also a combat veteran of Vietnam. Childs, a mother of two, was with the Navy in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are now looking for landlords who will accept their vouchers.

    "This program brings one more element into the fight against homelessness in our city. This arrangement between PHA and the Veterans Administration will complement other programs put into place earlier this year to continue moving homeless Philadelphians into homes of their own," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "It's especially significant to be helping those who've worn the nation's uniform." 
    Congressman Robert Brady, a member of the Housed Armed Services Committee and strong supporter of veterans programs, congratulated the vets on receiving their housing vouchers, saying, "you have served our nation valiantly and we have an obligation to support you."

    PHA is working with the Veterans Administration to implement this program, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) kicked off last April by targeting $75 million to provide vouchers for vets nationwide. Philadelphia was allotted 105 vouchers.

    Currently, the Philadelphia VA is processing 30 applications. According to Stephen Bennett, a social worker with the VA, his department is staffing up to handle a larger influx of applicants more quickly.  Federal guidelines require that candidates receive psychological screening and agree to case management before entering the voucher program.

    "We've been hoping to get permanent housing for our vets for some time," Bennett said. "We're happy that Congress listened to us."

    To qualify for the voucher, said Bennett, the vets must be homeless, have mental or physical illnesses, and be involved in a treatment or case management program. They must also be able to pay the security deposit for the apartment, which the voucher does not cover. The VA also helps them acquire furniture for their new homes.

    Today, there are more than 100 vets in transitional housing throughout the City, who, Bennett says, are excellent candidates for the program.  Qualified candidates may apply by themselves to the program or be referred by their case manager or social worker.

    For more information or to apply for the program, call Bennett at 215-823-5800, ext. 5506.

Mayor Michael Nutter and Congressman Bob Brady joined PHA Executive Director Carl Greene on Veterans Day to award Housing Choice Vouchers to six homeless veterans. The veterans are holding their vouchers, which enable them to rent apartments on the private market. From left to right: Clarence Thomas, James Davis, Nutter, Brady, Kevin Carroll, VA social worker Steve Bennett and Greene.

Rhashida Childs, a Navy veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, thanks PHA Executive Director Carl Greene for her housing voucher and relates how important it is to her and her two children to be able to have their own home.

Congressman Bob Brady shakes hands with George Smith, a combat veteran who served in Vietnam. Smith is one of the first recipients under the new voucher program for homeless veterans.

Mayor Nutter greets vets Rhashida Childs (left) and Cynthia Armstrong (center) at the ceremony celebrating the new voucher program for homeless vets.