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Organization plans to assist homeless veterans

By Maria-Jose Subiria

A non-profit organization with the aim of assisting homeless veterans in getting back on their feet is underway, said the co-founder and CEO of the group.

Mike Sauls said Veterans for Veterans AmericA, Inc., was established in 2008, by three disabled veterans, including Jeremiah Leggett, COO; Kevin McKie, CFO, and himself.

He said he expects the organization to begin operations in March 2012, with a Veteran Development Center and a transitional housing facility. Sauls said Veterans for Veterans AmericA will service homeless veterans in Clayton, Henry and DeKalb counties, and will have its headquarters in Clayton County. There are an estimated 107,000 homeless veterans in the U.S., he said.

"No better resource of subject matter expertise is available for helping those homeless veterans, who are returning from war, than other veterans who [have] experienced similar transitions," said Sauls, in a prepared statement. "The premise of our organization is to assist those who have sacrificed a tremendous amount of themselves, and to help them find and learn how to adjust to a new normalcy in life."

According to Sauls, the non-profit organization will assist homeless veterans in different areas, including: a residential-stability goal plan; increased skill-level assessments and development; job placement and support; advocacy on issues related to disability, compensation, and discharge upgrades -- when needed.

Currently, said Sauls, there is no physical office space for the organization, though it already has a proposed site for a veterans development center. If everything goes according to plan, the center will be housed at 6799 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro, he said.

"It would be perfect for the center," said Sauls, during a telephone interview. He said he is hopeful Veterans for Veterans AmericA will be approved for the VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program, which is offered annually by the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care for Homeless Veterans Programs.

Sauls said, if awarded a Homeless Providers Grant, the money could assist the non-profit organization in the acquisition of the proposed site, by covering 65 percent of the costs.

The Per Diem Program goes hand-in-hand with the grant, he explained. The program will provide Veterans for Veterans AmericA with up to $35 per day, for each veteran that is housed in any transitional housing facility approved by Veterans Affairs, he said.

"Those funds are used for the operational part of the program," said Sauls.

Sauls said his organization is in the process of creating a proposal. The deadline to submit the paperwork for the VA's Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program, is March 2011, he said. The group is asking for $600,000, out of the $4.9 million that is available from the federal government for the grant.

Sauls said he should hear whether the organization is eligible for the grant before October 2011. "Once you get your grant established, your Per Diem [Program] is automatic," he said.

The organization will also apply for funds through the Community Development Block Grant program, which is administered by the Clayton County Housing and Community Development, he said. He said he must submit that application by Dec. 16. Sauls said he will ask for $100,000.

He said the organization also has a fund-raising campaign that will run until Jan. 12, 2011. The goal is to raise $55,000. According to Sauls, individuals can make donations by sending a check, or money order, to Veterans for Veterans AmericA, Inc., P.O. Box 423, 1600 Lake Harbin Road, Morrow.