Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in Hauppauge. (July 31, 2012)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in Hauppauge. (July 31, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Four Long Island and New York City veterans aid organizations have won a total of nearly $6 million in federal grants to help prevent at-risk veterans from falling into homelessness, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families grants, offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, include $2 million to Services for the Underserved, $1.46 million to Volunteers of America, $1.27 million to the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, and $981,000 to Black Veterans for Social Justice.

These groups, which collectively serve Suffolk, Nassau and New York City, will use the money to provide temporary rents, financial planning, cover late utility bills, child care and other assistance to allow financially troubled veterans to regain their footing.
The groups will also work with others, including Touro Law Center’s veterans legal clinic, to help veterans navigate such legal snarls as reviving driver’s licenses that expired while the veteran was stationed overseas.

“This is a landmark, a long time coming for Long Island,” said Frank Amalfitano, president of Beacon House, a homeless shelter network that will receive funding under a contract with Services for the Underserved.

Nearly 1 million veterans under age 65 are living below the poverty line, according to the most recent Census department estimate. Joblessness among post-9/11 veterans hovered at just below 10 percent at the end of last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Suffolk, some 3,000 veterans live below the poverty line, according to the EOC. Figures for Nassau were not available.

Bellone said homelessness among veterans is society’s “greatest shame.”

“There is nothing more important that we do I think in government than supporting our veterans,” said Bellone, who said Suffolk’s 70,000 veterans are the largest concentration in New York State.

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