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Florida senators support housing help for vets

Posted: 5:27 PM, Apr 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-27 09:28:31Z

A critical program to keep veterans from becoming homeless could cease to exist in a few months. Two senators are pushing to protect it. 

The program, called HUD-VASH, helps veterans who can't afford to pay rent on a limited income, but it is at risk of losing major funding as early as October. 

The program helps veterans like Douglas Turner, a single father of three.

On Thursday, Turner sang happy birthday to his daughter and cut her a cake for her 6th birthday in his apartment living room with his two other sons. Something he may not have been able to do if it weren't for HUD-VASH.

"Here I am. I did it. I'm one of the success stories," said Turner. 

Turner is an Army veteran who retired to the Dominican Republic years ago. There he could stretch his military pension, but as his kids got older, he had to make a decision.

"I was thinking about the future of my children, the education," he said.

Turner made a choice to move back to West Palm Beach. 

"I came with three suitcases and three backpacks," Turner said.

Living out of a hotel, he went to the VA for help and learned about the HUD-VASH program, which gives veterans who qualify a voucher to rent an apartment or home and contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. 

"At the time, when I moved into this development I had $38," said Turner. "My living became totally stabilized [after HUD-VASH]."

But now there are fears the money for the program could be diverted in October. 

"What would I do?" asked Turner.

Florida U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio introduced a bill that would prevent the VA from using funds designated for HUD-VASH for anything else. The program changed Turner's life and is helping him give his children better lives. 

The VA announced it had plans to shift more than $460 million designated for HUD-VASH but after receiving some backlash it reversed its plan and said the money is safe at least until September. But it can't promise what will happen in the future.