By Sahar Chmais
Two veterans service systems received a collective $400,000 to aid Hays County veterans.
Hays County Veterans Office was funded with $100,000, and the Hays County Veterans Treatment Court received $300,000 through the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC). The TVC awarded $6.8 million grants to veteran services across Central Texas, with a big-check ceremony held at the Hays County Government Center on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
“Two words that should never belong in the same sentence: homeless and veteran,” said Jude Prather, Hays County Veteran Service Officer. “This is helping prevent veterans from ending up in the streets.”
32 Central Texas veteran organizations received funding through the Texas Veterans Commission.
The county’s veteran office helps veterans, dependents and surviving spouses with rent, mortgage and utility bills. Recently, the program began paying for car insurance and car payments so veterans can get to their jobs, and cell phone bills and internet bills so veterans can stay connected, said Cheryl Robinson, case manager at the veterans office.
“We have homeless veterans that walk into our office weekly,” Robinson said, “and that way we’re able to link them up with other resources, or if we can’t help them, we’ll find someone that can.”
The Hays County Veterans Office aids 70 veterans a year, Robinson added.
The $300,000 portion of the grant will help fund the system that diverts veteran defendants, typically charged with misdemeanor criminal offenses, from traditional or specialty courts to a specialized criminal court docket specifically created for them. The court tends to their unique cultures, attributes and needs.
The Veterans Treatment Court is a 12 to 24 month three-phased treatment court that promotes sobriety, recovery and stability.
“Almost all of the services we provide will be funded by this grant,” said County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Chris Johnson. “… we enjoy a very high success rate because we’re able to partner with private service providers to provide the kind of treatment that the veterans need in my court.”
At times, it may be halfway through the program that they can figure out what services are really needed, Johnson said.
The money helps fund private service providers, such as one-on-one sessions with psychologists and psychiatrists. Providers are available 24/7, giving rapid, flexible and immediate care, Johnson added.
Veterans can request help from the Veterans Administration (VA), which is a more regimented and rigid system because it has to be, Johnson said, but it just will not have the same flexibility and immediacy.
The $300,000 will be able to get the court through the end of the year, according to Johnson.