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VOC works to serve vets despite budget cuts

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 10:40 pm
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Over the past seven years, the number of homeless veterans in America has declined by 47 percent, dropping 17 percent just between 2015 and 2016, according to HuffPost

Thanks to associations and outreach programs dedicated to helping them, veteran homelessness in 52 communities and the states of Delaware, Connecticut and Virginia have completely ended. Thanks to the VA Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services, 7,500 veterans were able to find employment after leaving the homeless residential programs. 

However,  the Veterans Administration has recently cut funding with the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center (VOC), where money was being used to help veterans and families find homes. The Department of Veterans Affairs denied the grant application for 2018, losing the VOC $2.1 million in federal funding. 

A statement was released from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s office, saying, “Congresswoman Slaughter is particularly concerned to see an organization’s territory expanded without an associated increase in funding. She also wants to ensure that funding awarded to any out-of-district organization reaches local veterans.”

The VOC was founded by Vietnam veterans in 1973, and strive to provide recourses to current and former military members and their families. Their organizational values, according to their website, include “veterans and families first, integrity, trust, excellence, compassion, collaboration, professionalism, sustainability, communication and volunteerism.” 

Because of the major financial hit the VOC will be taking, they are looking for donations and help from community members.  

To do her part, College at Brockport student Erika Curtis set up and ran a table for “Stand Up for Change — Petitioning for Rochester Homeless Veterans” in the Union Square, and will have two more set up later this week. There, you can sign a petition that will be sent to congress in hopes they’ll renew the budget for the VOC in Rochester. 

“I ultimately want to compile a bunch of signatures together and send them off to congress,” Curtis said. “I think it’s a shame we’re not taking progressive measures. Other cities have gotten to zero homeless population.” 

Curtis works at Community Development, where one of her programs is to engage students democratically on campus. 

“Those are my goals,” she said. “Trying to involve students. Engage them democratically without rushing them to vote or do things they’re ready to do. They’re still getting their voice and name out there.”

Every signature makes a difference in the eyes of those trying to help the Rochester VOC and veterans that need food, shelter and clothing.

“I want students to know that there is a lot of people out there who can always use our help that [homeless veterans are] just one of the many population of people who do need help and your voice can be that change and be that help that they get,” Curtis said. 

There will be two more tabling sessions where students will have a chance to sign the petition on Thursday, Nov. 30, and Friday, Dec. 1, in the Union Square from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There is also a petition online that can be filled out at thepetitionsite.com

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