ILS Project Moves to Prevent Homelessness: Expanding Veterans Housing Program Tackles Root Causes

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Through federal and state grants, Indiana Legal Services Corp. is expanding its assistance to focus on the root causes of housing loss so that more low-income veterans can get help to stay in their homes without having to wait for eviction notices.

Statewide legal aid organization creates the Veterans Housing Stability Project, which will help prevent evictions and homelessness among ex-military members in all 92 counties of the United States. ‘Indiana. Previously, the Veterans Eviction Avoidance Project offered help only when homelessness was imminent.

“While we have seen a slight increase in homelessness among veterans during the pandemic, the housing moratorium and the assistance available through federal and state funding have gone a long way in preventing more people from being affected” , said Polli Pollem, director of the ILS military assistance project. “Now that these protections have expired, we are again seeing an increase in the number of veterans experiencing deportation and homelessness, which makes the ability to provide these services extremely important.”

Pollem credited the combination of two grants with allowing the housing program to grow. The Veterans and Family Support Services grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, along with funds from the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, have enabled ILS to do more.

With the current SSVF grant of $290,376, five Indiana social service agencies have developed partnerships with ILS to provide civil legal assistance to veterans. The collaborations grew out of the requirement that organizations receiving federal money must contract with legal aid offices.

Pollem and his team of attorneys, all of whom served in the armed forces, now accept referrals from partner agencies and help clients navigate legal barriers to a stable life.

The IDVA Annual Grant to Indiana Legal Services also contributes to the housing project. Currently, ILS is using the $70,177 grant to not only serve areas of the state not covered by the five partner agencies, but also to exceed the strict SSVF grant income limit and provide legal assistance to veterans whose revenue reaches 200%. of the federal poverty level, Pollem said.

“As part of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs grants, we had the Veteran Deportation Avoidance Project,” Pollem explained. “But when this SSVF project was launched with the five donors, I said, ‘Why can’t we have a bigger reach? Why can’t we reach all 92 counties and why can’t we serve people with higher incomes? »

The new Housing Stability Project will address legal issues that can potentially put someone at risk of homelessness. Pollem said the goal of the project is to remove those legal hurdles such as restoring driving privileges, helping with a debt problem or changing child support or getting an update. level of military release.

Ranelle Allen, health care navigator for the Community Action Agency of Northwest Indiana’s SSVF program, has worked with Pollem and the MAP team since 2021, sending referrals and serving as a liaison between the veteran and lawyer.

“This program is such an asset to the veterans we serve as well as our team,” Allen said. “…Cases are split by county with a majority of cases from Lake County. Evictions are the main investigation.

Although veterans referred by SSVF funders may encounter a variety of legal issues, Pollem said housing should be addressed first. Then the lawyers can deal with other issues when the client is not too overwhelmed.

“Quite frankly, if you’re thinking of living without your car because you’re about to get fired and what are you going to do with all your stuff, when I start asking you about ‘What kind of dump has did you get? What branch of service? you just don’t have the brain space to respond,” Pollem said.

The expansion of the ILS program should not lack work. The 2021 results of the annual survey of veterans by the CHALENG Project – Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups – revealed that seven of the top 10 unmet needs of veterans were issues that required legal assistance.

“Serving veterans was my end goal, but I feel like right now I’m able to handle this on a larger scale,” Pollem said of the Housing Stability Project. “I’m not going to say it’s systemic, but it allows us to help many more veterans across the state, and it warms my heart.”•

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