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updated: 7/19/2013 5:00 PM

Area vets to benefit from shelter's federal grants

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A fledgling shelter for homeless veterans soon will be able to offer assistance to nearly eight times more vets thanks to a federal grant.

The Wheaton-based Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans this week received a $444,000 Veterans Affairs grant to serve homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.

Beginning Oct. 1, the shelter will begin accepting referrals to help as many as 85 homeless or at-risk veterans stay in their current rental units or find housing if they are already homeless.

The shelter currently helps six veterans stay in affordable housing and five others in a transition shelter. The shelter also offers outreach programs to as many as 200 vets throughout the year.

The grant is part of the VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program that recently awarded nearly $300 million to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to low-income veteran families living in, or transitioning to, permanent housing.

The program supports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to prevent at-risk vets from becoming homeless and to rapidly find places to live for those who need them.

"We are a small and relatively new organization, so it is a huge deal to get this big award," said Pamela Kostecki, the shelter's director of operations. "We're working hard to have a continuum of services so we have the resources to help any veteran, no matter where they fall, in the needs continuum."

Kostecki said the shelter's programming is largely proactive but also will provide limited temporary financial assistance on behalf of veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits, child care and moving costs.

"By and large, veterans are great, hardworking tenants and there are times they may struggle and need help," Kostecki said. "Whether it's talking to a landlord to buy them a few extra days until we can mediate a rent dispute or helping them with a security deposit to get them started, we will be there."

The funding also will help the shelter provide some case management and assistance in obtaining benefits and services pertaining to health and child care, personal financial planning, transportation, housing counseling and fiduciary and legal issues.

The shelter soon will establish a toll-free number for veterans to call for assistance. Shelter officials will begin seeking referrals after Oct. 1.

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