V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett on Monday presented a $300,990 check to help homeless veterans in the territory.
The check, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was awarded to the Methodist Training and Outreach Center on St. Thomas to support a “rapid rehousing program” for the dozen or more reported veterans in the territory without shelter.
“I was happy to partner with Veterans Affairs to ensure that organizations like MTOC have the necessary funding to provide housing and essential services to this population,” Plaskett said.
The funding was appropriated to Veterans Affairs via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
According to Plaskett, homeless veterans are a particularly vulnerable population to COVID-19 and have a greater risk of contracting the virus.
As such, Veterans Affairs has awarded more than 425 grants — totaling $279 million — to community organizations like the Methodist Training and Outreach Center across the country, with the goal of helping homeless veterans “achieve residential stability, increase their skills level and attain greater self-determination.”
“I’m always humbled by the sacrifice that our veterans make and I think of my own father and the many Virgin Islanders who have served this nation proudly — and we are proud of them,” Plaskett said.
Center Executive Director Erma Derima said this was the seventh year the group has been awarded funding.
“We are grateful to be able to meet the needs of our community through our veterans and their families,” Derima said.
“We assist veterans out of homelessness and prevent them from becoming homeless by providing support services such as rental arrears, first month deposits, security deposits, utility deposits, uniforms — anything to stabilize the home so that a veteran doesn’t fall into crisis and back into homelessness,” said Center Support Services for the Homeless Program Manager Danny Derima.
The territory has about 8,000 veterans. However, it remains unclear how many are homeless, as many decline to seek help or fear the stigma of homelessness.
V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs Director Patrick Farrell said he was “grateful” for any kind of support.
“This lends to one of our most precious human resources in the territory and across the nation: our veterans,” he said.
“We are absolutely grateful to have an organization like the MTOC being a part of the system making sure our veterans get the resources that they need in a timely manner.”