FARMINGTON — Even as the county housing authority struggles to maintain services after budget cuts, it will be able to help some homeless military veterans through a targeted federal grant.
Although the cuts mean the authority is no longer accepting new applicants, a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program will allow it to help 15 homeless veterans.
"It was exciting news," said Faye Anderson, the director of the San Juan County Housing Authority. "Not only because of the funds but because we will be able to assist our heroes."
The program has helped find homes for more than 42,000 formerly homeless veterans nationwide since 2008, according to a HUD news release. It's the first time the San Juan County Housing Authority has received HUD vouchers designated for veterans.
HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that New Mexico is going to receive 95 vouchers worth more than $425,000 to provide assistance to homeless veterans.
In addition to San Juan County's 15 vouchers, the housing authority in Albuquerque will receive 35 vouches, the Bernalillo County Housing Authority will receive 30 vouchers and the Housing Authority of Socorro will receive 15 vouchers, according to the news release.
Each voucher is intended to be awarded to a homeless military veteran. The veterans who participate in the program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income on rent. The vouchers subsidize the remaining amount, according to the HUD news release.
County Operations Officer Mike Stark said the county's housing authority will rely on the local chapter of the New Mexico Department of Veteran Services to locate homeless veterans.
Representatives from the local veteran services offices could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Ray Seva, a New Mexico Department of Veterans Services spokesman, said the agency does not have an estimate on the number of homeless veterans in New Mexico.
The San Juan County Housing Authority provides financial assistance to 236 low-income families. Though that number hasn't decreased compared to this time last year, there are fewer families who are waiting to receive housing assistance. The local housing authority previously had a waiting list of more than 400 families but that waiting list was suspended in March because of automatic cuts to federally funded programs, known as sequestration, across the country, Anderson said.
The county housing authority relies entirely on federal funds.
"In my opinion this country could be doing a lot more for our veterans," County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said. "This is yet another valuable, needed program for veterans that don't have a home."