- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A coalition of groups seeking to eliminate homelessness among Connecticut veterans cheered Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision Thursday to include money in his budget proposal for a new security deposit program to help homeless vets.

Malloy’s spending plan proposes $50,000 for the security deposit program and $600,000 for grants to housing agencies to help veterans re-enter the workforce.

“It’s definitely what we wanted from the governor’s office,” said Greg Behrman, founder of the Connecticut Heroes Project, one of several groups that have crafted a statewide plan to end homelessness among Connecticut’s veterans by the end of 2015.

During his State of the State Address, Malloy made the same pledge, saying it is “unacceptable” for the state to have more than an estimated 500 homeless veterans.

Behrman, a veteran from Fairfield, said his and other advocacy groups have been meeting with Malloy’s office for several months, hoping to persuade the administration to sign on to their action plan, the result of six months of brainstorming and research.

“This is a very big step forward and we are deeply appreciative of the leadership the governor’s office has offered on this,” he said, adding how “it was clear very early on this was an issue they cared about.”

Malloy’s budget proposal also sets aside $500,000 for a review of state facilities to put them to the best use for veterans and almost $290,000 for supportive services at the 74-unit Victory Gardens veterans’ affordable housing development in Newington.

By filling in gaps in services and better coordinating existing state and federal resources, including a recent boost in federal funding for veteran’s housing programs, advocates are optimistic about meeting the 2015 goal.

Besides this state funding, Behrman said the coalition of advocacy groups has acquired private finances for some of their initiatives. Other ideas, he said, do not require funding.

He said the group believes there is a sacred obligation to help those who’ve risked their lives to serve their country.

“For those to live in our backyard and not have a basic home to call their own and that basic level of security and dignity is a shame on all of us,” Behrman said.

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