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Santa Rosa agency aids veterans in need


Rohnert Park resident Adam Weiper, newly released from the U.S. Marine Corps and searching for work, and his family were forced to couch surf with friends and relatives because they were unable to afford a place to live.

Even when Weiper found one job after six months and then a better job, saving to pay for an apartment's upfront costs wasn't going to happen soon.

Weiper, 32, who was a marine for eight years, began contacting veterans' service agencies.

"I was reaching out in every direction I could," he said.

Help came from the North Bay Veterans Resource Center.

Through a $2 million federal grant, the agency is offering financial aid to local homeless veterans and low-income veterans at risk of losing their homes.

"They took care of a good chunk of the security deposit, allowing me to get in," said Weiper.

With the holidays almost here, he and his wife and young daughter have an apartment. Both parents are working and life is falling into place.

"It'll be light under the Christmas tree, but at least we'll have a place to be," said Weiper, crediting the agency with making the difference.

North Bay Veterans Resource Center recently received the federal grant and agency officials hope to assist about 740 veterans and their families, said Marc Deal, the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit's chief operations officer.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant funds may be used in a variety of ways to prevent veterans from losing their homes and to house the homeless, Deal said.

Sonoma County has about 400 homeless veterans, who make up 11 percent of the county's homeless adults.

Assistance can include rent payments, housing deposits, utility and car repair bills and day-care expenses — "pretty much anything that would force a family to become homeless," Deal said.

About 50 veterans have received assistance in the last two months, but officials believe there are many eligible veterans who don't know about the program.

"I don't think the word is out there enough," Deal said.

Weiper said he's alerting veterans.

"I've been telling everyone about it," he said, grateful for the financial help and the information and moral support he was given by agency workers.

The Veterans Resource Center received $1 million in grant funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011, the program's first year, assisting 370 families. Another $1 million grant assisted 369 families last year.

The age of veterans assisted by the program has ranged from 23 to 84, Deal said.

Families have sought housing at 3 p.m. and been placed in an apartment by 5 p.m. the same day, he said. On average, it takes two days to find at least temporary housing, he said.

National Guard members and reservists are eligible for grants if they have served at least one day of federal duty.

Veterans no longer need to show any documentation, such as a marriage license, to establish the members of their household, Deal said.

Grants have ranged as high as $4,560, he said, and in some cases have involved no funds but the involvement of a case manager assisting a family with financial management or helping a veteran find a higher paying job.

Veterans must meet certain income standards to qualify for grants.