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Amityville complex for veterans and their families receives critical funding

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has reversed course and will approve funding for a nonprofit that houses and counsels homeless military veterans and their families in North Amityville.

The decision, announced by Sen. Charles Schumer's office and confirmed by HUD, means that the 60-unit Liberty Village can move ahead with case management for residents, some of whom need counseling and job training to re-enter civilian life.

"I am thrilled with the outcome," said Ralph Fasano, executive director for Concern for Independent Living, the nonprofit that runs the 60-unit facility. "We feel more confident putting the services in place that are needed, given that the long-term financial viability of the project has been helped by this decision."

HUD had previously denied the vouchers, or payments, worth $250,000 annually, on grounds that Liberty Village residents -- having moved into the facility late last year -- were no longer technically homeless.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) last month criticized that ruling as a cruel Catch-22 and asked HUD Secretary Julian Castro in a private phone conversation to reverse it. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) made a similar appeal to President Barack Obama.

The vouchers "will allow these veterans not only to have a roof over their heads, with heating and electricity, but also the training they need to get back into the world of jobs, of supporting themselves," Schumer said in an interview Wednesday. "It is the least we could have done for them."

In an email, a HUD spokeswoman said "HUD reviewed this matter and is pleased to award 30 project-based HUD-VASH vouchers to Amityville's Liberty Village. Secretary Julian Castro and the Obama Administration remain deeply committed to ending veteran homelessness."

VASH stands for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, a program that combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Before the $21 million Liberty Village opened at 600 Albany Ave. last October, many of the veterans it was built to serve were living in shelters, garages or cars across Long Island.

Residents pay up to a third of their monthly income in rent, with the vouchers paying a significant portion of the $1.2 million annual facility operating costs.

The project offers condo-style apartments for veterans and their families with caseworkers and social service groups on-site.

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