$940,000 initiative to support homeless prevention, legal services, job placement, and mental health services for veterans

New York – Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Veterans Committee Chair Eric Ulrich, and Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland hailed funding allocated in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for the Veterans Services Initiative. The Initiative will provide $940,000 to various community organizations to address critical needs of the City’s veterans, including homeless prevention, job placement and transition services, legal services, mental health services, and community development.

“Far too many veterans struggle to rebuild their lives after bravely serving our country,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “New York City has a duty and an obligation to support our veterans in their time of need. The Veterans Services Initiative will connect these courageous men and women to jobs, legal assistance, counseling and housing opportunities so that veterans can navigate these challenges and transition successfully back to civilian life. Every day, New York City thanks the veterans who put their lives on the line for our country and our freedom.”

“The City Council is leading the way in supporting our veterans,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich, Chair of the Committee on Veterans. “The funding we have allocated for legal services, comprehensive mental health and job training and placement is only a small token of appreciation for those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. I want to thank the Speaker and all my colleagues for making veterans and their families a priority in this year’s budget.”

“The City’s budget reinforces support for veterans with initiatives that fund training programs for well-paying jobs in the construction and culinary industries. In addition, the Council is proud to fund much needed legal and mental health services for one of the City’s most deserving populations,” said Chair Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Committee on Finance.

“I am delighted to participate in today’s event at the Project Renewal Culinary Training Kitchen marking this timely moment in the history of the NYC veteran community,” said Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Loree Sutton. “Under the visionary leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and in collaborative partnership with Speaker Mark-Viverito and Veterans Committee Chair Eric Ulrich, NYC veterans and their families will benefit from an unprecedented level of expanded capacity and services, including MOVA veteran outreach specialists in all five boroughs; veteran peer coordinators assisting homeless veterans access necessary services and sustain permanent housing; and a diverse range of legal, employment, clinical, and advocacy outreach services provided by community organizations. On behalf of the Mayor, I applaud all who have made this moment possible – the Speaker, the Chairman and other elected and appointed public officials; veteran advocates and veteran service organizations; leaders from the private and non-profit sectors; and all New Yorkers who recognize the importance of serving those who have served on our behalf. There is no greater privilege.”

New York City is home to over 225,000 veterans, according to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs. In addition to this Veterans Services Initiative, the Administration agreed to the Council’s recommendation to allocate additional resources to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs by providing Veterans Service Officers that will serve all five boroughs. The Administration has also committed to provide additional staff at the Department of Homeless Services dedicated to serving homeless veterans.

In a survey of recent veterans, nearly 70 percent cited finding employment as their biggest challenge; statewide, approximately 23,000 veterans are currently unemployed, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2013, the Food Bank of NYC reported that 70,000 veterans in New York City, nearly 30% of the total veteran population, relied on soup kitchens and food pantries to avoid going hungry.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services reports just under 1,000 homeless veterans in New York City. According to the VA, 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness and approximately half have substance abuse problems.

“I applaud and thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Eric Ulrich and the rest of the Council for their support of veterans’ services and Project Renewal’s veterans programming. Project Renewal works with veterans every day, providing them with healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities, especially through our Culinary Arts Training Program. We share the Council’s conviction that it is our duty to help the brave men and women who served our country,” said Mitchell Netburn’s, President & CEO of Project Renewal.

“NYC Helmets to Hardhats is proud to partner with the City to assist all NYC veterans who actively seek a career in the unionized construction industry,” said Anne Trenkle, New York State Director of Helmets 2 Hardhats.

“Legal Services NYC’s Veterans Justice Project is pleased to partner with the New York City Council to provide critically needed civil legal services to our City’s veterans and their families. For far too long, our veterans have been the invisible poor; we are proud to serve them, paying back a small piece of the debt we owe them for their service to our country,” said Raun Rasmussen, Executive Director of Legal Services NYC.

“We thank Councilman Ulrich and the City Council for their continued support of veterans in New York City. We are proud to utilize this grant to expand the services of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone to treat military personnel and veterans suffering from the neuropsychiatric sequelae of traumatic brain injury and related disorders. Over 300,000 veterans have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of serving in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and without treatment, TBI puts veterans at a higher risk for suicide, other mental health conditions, and increased high risk behaviors (including but not limited to impulsivity associated with head injury, tobacco use, and alcohol and substance misuse). We are grateful to the City Council for allowing us to undertake this important work through their generous support. We are honored to be part of the 2016 Veterans Initiative,” said Dr. Amanda Spray, Assistant Clinic Director and Clinical Psychologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, Steven & Alexandra Cohen Military Family Clinic.

“As an agency serving veterans across New York City, we are profoundly grateful to the City Council — in particular Speaker Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Ulrich – for recognizing the unique role legal services can play in helping veterans overcome the enormous obstacles they face in maintaining their quality of life and achieving economic stability,” said Beth Goldman, President & Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). “Veterans face a significantly higher risk of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness than the general population. Thanks to the Council’s commitment to substantially increasing funding for legal services as part of the Veterans Initiative, NYLAG will be able to greatly increase the number of veterans we can help by assisting with applications for veterans’ benefits, preventing evictions and foreclosures, securing government assistance, combatting debt – and a whole host of other services that can stabilize the lives of our veterans,” said Beth Goldman, President & Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG).

“The Veterans Mental Health Coalition of New York City is grateful for the New York City Council’s support to provide education and training to enhance the capabilities of providers to effectively meet the needs of veterans and their families with behavioral health challenges,” said Kim Williams, Director of the Center for Policy, Advocacy, and Education of the Mental Health Association of New York City. “Through the Veterans Initiative, the Council has recognized the unmet needs of the diverse population of veterans in NYC and made an important commitment to better serve them.”