Berkeley Food and Housing Project & Anka BHI awarded $1 million to fight veteran homelessness


By: Somin Park, The Daily Californian

Local nonprofit organization Berkeley Food and Housing Project announced on Friday that it has received about $1 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as part of a $300 million nationwide effort to eradicate veterans’ homelessness.

The ROADS Home award is organized by the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, part of Veterans Affairs.

319 community agencies across the country will receive the grants and use the funding to help 120,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. In 2009, President Barack Obama announced the federal government’s goal to bring an end to veterans’ homelessness by 2015.

BFHP, which supports vulnerable members of the community, will collaborate with Anka Behavioral Health Inc. to expand services for veterans.

“These people deserve respect for what they’ve done,” said Terrie Light, executive director of BFHP. “Some of them have put their lives on the line but have come back and been shunned by society. We want to help them come home.”

According to Light, BFHP will create an outreach team with current and new staff to find people in the community who need support but are not aware of the help available to them.

Jim Huntley, director of advancement at BFHP, said that the organization already has a program funded by Veterans Affairs that provides food and shelter to 12 veterans at a time. The organization will take this model and expand tenfold with the grant.

Half of the funding will serve as direct financial assistance to veterans and veterans’ families who are in danger of becoming homeless, Light said. However, the main focus will remain on veterans who are already homeless.

BFHP will offer the support homeless veterans need for a productive and independent life. Services will include life-skills classes and mental health counseling in partnership with ABHI.

Huntley said that the funding is not enough “by a mile,” but it is certainly a significant step for BFHP and the veterans they hope to help.

According to Light, veterans have a particularly difficult experience in Berkeley.

“They are very anxious about being in Berkeley, which is known as an antiwar-movement center,” Light said. “They’ve had traumas not feeling welcomed. We have made our agency veteran-friendly and made sure that they are treated well here.”

This led BFHP to add a chaplain to the staff to work with the veterans.

BFHP and ABHI have a positive history of working together, Light said. BFHP hopes to collaborate with the other organizations funded across the area for maximum impact.

“Every day, there’s some homeless person or veteran who’s more and more in need of our help, and if we get it to them quickly, it’s even better,” said Yolanda Braxton, vice president of business development at ABHI. “The grant allows them to do that. It’s an exciting time.”

Contact Somin Park at sominpark@dailycal.org.

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