Berkeley Food and Housing Project wins $1m grant

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Veterans and members of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project gather for a Veterans’ Day lunch in 2011. Photo: BFHP

Berkeley Food and Housing Project was recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last week with a grant of more than $1 million to expand its services to homeless veterans.

“This is huge for our agency,” Jim Huntley, BFHP director of advancement, said. “This is a population that really needs all the help that society can muster.”

The VA currently helps to fund the nonprofit’s small-scale men’s shelter, which has the capacity to provide food, shelter and other services to 12 homeless veterans at a time. With the help of the $1,007,000 Roads Home grant, the shelter will be able to increase the number of homeless veterans it can help and almost double the area it covers, by extending services to Solano and Contra Costa counties. The money will officially become available to the organization in October.

Not all of the grant money will go toward the nonprofit’s operations. According to Executive Director Terrie Light, $450,000 is specified for direct financial assistance to low-income veterans — for example, to temporarily pay rent or utility costs for veterans going through transition periods or who are in danger of becoming homeless.

Even so, Light said the remaining funds will have a significant impact on the nonprofit, which otherwise has an annual budget of $3.5 million.

While Berkeley Food and Housing Project will continue to focus on providing food and housing, a partnership with Anka Behavioral Health, Inc., will make mental health services available to the veterans as well. This side of the equation is particularly important for homeless people who have been in military service, as they have distinct mental health needs and exhibit higher rates of suicide.

Light said BFHP will hire a number of new staff members to orchestrate the expansion into new offices in Solano and Contra Costa counties, a task that will require logistical planning between now and October. BFHP and Anka will also hire a supervisor to oversee the joint team.

“We would hope to hire veterans — that’s our ideal candidates for this job,” Light said. “They can identify with people.”

Huntley said he is “personally overjoyed” that BFHP will now have a greater capacity to help veterans. According to Huntley, they are 50 percent more likely to fall into homelessness than non-veterans.

Light, whose husband is a Vietnam veteran, is also personally invested in helping veterans.

“He knows a lot of the people he was with over there,” she said of her husband. “They didn’t come back in mind and spirit, even if they came back in body.”

She said that while Berkeley Food and Housing encounters mostly veterans from the Vietnam war, she expects that with the expansion, it will find and help more recent veterans from the first and second Iraq wars, because there are more military families located in the Solano County area.

The grant is part of a recent federal campaign at the Department of Veterans Affairs to help end homelessness among veterans. Earlier this month, the agency announced its allocation of more than $300 million in grants to 319 local organizations across the United States. Other recipients included the East Bay Community Recovery Project and the East Oakland Community Project.

In addition to helping veterans, BFHP runs a number of other programs at different sites in Alameda County, including a women’s shelter, a men’s shelter, a women’s resource center, a mental health facility, and a free daily meal program called the Quarter Meal.

The VA grant comes just after the BFHP’s North County Women’s Shelter was recognized by EveryOne Home, a similar organization based in Hayward that works to increase housing accessibility for homeless and very low-income people in Alameda County. EveryOne Home selected the BFHP women’s shelter as the county’s “Most Improved Program” for its success in increasing the number of people it moved from the shelter into permanent homes by 63 percent last year. The Y & H Soda Foundation gave EveryOne Home a sum of $5,000 to allocate to the women’s shelter to honor its progress.

The two separate recognitions will fortify an organization that is always in need of funds as it continues to help a large number of homeless and low-income people in the East Bay.

“I feel personally moved about helping people that haven’t been as fortunate,” Light said.

She added that because the grant money is not available until October, BFHP’s current veterans services are limited, and those in need of immediate help should contact Operation Dignity.

Camille Baptista is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. She grew up in Berkeley and now studies at Barnard in New York City, where she writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator.

Related:
Berkeley moves towards a consensus homeless plan (01.31.13)
How to give more than thanks over the holidays (11.21.12)
Everyone deserves to eat: Andre Green’s kitchen wisdom  (11.23.11)
Donations sought so no-one goes hungry on Thanksgiving (11.21.11)
Berkeley food programs short on funds as demand rises (10.04.11)

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  • AnthonySanchez

    This is such fantastic news for such a fantastic organization doing incredibly important work!

  • curiousjorge

    Thank you for covering this. Agencies like Berkeley Food and Housing are part of what makes this a great city, but they rarely get the recognition they deserve, because the people they serve are not photogenic or trending on Twitter.

  • Andrew D

    First of all, let me say that veterans services are both highly needed and woefully underfunded. It is super important that we as a country do better on this front. It is disgraceful.

    But am I missing something here in my math? Does the article really say that BFHP has a current budget of $3.5M and is able to feed and house 12 vets at a time? Do they do other things as well? Because that is more than $291,000 per veteran. Even at Berkeley rates for rent I’m unclear on how this exactly is an efficient use of funds. I really hope there is some other major portion of their program that I’m missing here.

  • Andrew D

    oops, my bad. Just figured out that BFHP is a way larger program that just the veterans affairs stuff they do. Please disregard the above and accept my apologies and ignorance.

  • AnthonySanchez

    I wholeheartedly agree that veteran services are both highly needed and woefully underfunded. I’ve been helping a homeless veteran who has been waiting for over a year now just to have his PTSD benefits processed. Luckily, he is doing well now and has a job, but our system should take better care of those who risked their lives for us.

  • Bill N

    This is fantastic. We’ve supported them for years and they really have been doing the quite hard work.

  • Chaplain

    Thank you for brining attention and recognition to BFHP and The Veteran’s Program.

    I am the chaplain for the twelve veterans in our transitional housing program. I have seen many miracles happen over the past year. Many veterans are in permenant housing, some are attending college, others have been reunited with family members, while some have found employment. The greatest miracle and blessing I have been privileged to witness is their restored hope in life. The process of healing is a long and challenging road, however, with hope and by the grace of God of many names all things are possible.

    Thank You Everyone at BFHP.

    Peace,
    M.A.

  • sanam

    Great news