Sinema shows support for helping Pinal veterans
- By KEVIN REAGAN Staff Writer
- Jul 7, 2018 Updated Jul 11, 2018
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, left, visited Casa Grande on Thursday to speak with local military veterans.
- Kevin Reagan/PinalCentral/////
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, center, visited Casa Grande on Thursday to speak with military veterans. Kim Rodriguez, chair of Helping, Honoring, Hiring Our Heroes, is at right.
- Kevin Reagan/PinalCentral/
CASA GRANDE — U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, told a roomful of veterans Thursday it “makes no sense” that Pinal County doesn’t have housing vouchers for homeless veterans.
The Democratic congresswoman visited Helping, Honoring, Hiring Our Heroes and heard about struggles local veterans have living in Pinal County.
One issue, according to Kim Rodriguez, chair of the Casa Grande nonprofit, is the lack of housing vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness. She said Pinal County has none of a special type of voucher from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helps pay the rent of veterans by partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to HUD, the agency awarded 25 vouchers to Arizona this year, but these vouchers only went to housing authorities located in Mohave and Maricopa counties.
Kentucky, which reportedly has fewer military veterans than Arizona, received 50 housing vouchers, according to HUD. The government disperses vouchers based, in part, on data collected from the number of homeless veterans located across the country.
Sinema, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, contended these housing vouchers can be hard to get but insisted that a large county like Pinal should be able to get some.
Sinema further pledged her support to a new project HOHP is undertaking to try and establish a homeless shelter for veterans near Casa Grande. Rodriguez said her organization has found a building on McCartney Road and is hoping to obtain a federal grant to get the project moving.
There’s at least 15 local veterans that could be placed in a shelter like that today, Rodriguez said, but instead they have to travel to Phoenix or Tucson for that type of service.
Despite her congressional district not encompassing Pinal County, Sinema said her office could write letters of support in applying for those grants. Veterans experiencing homelessness shouldn’t have to travel so far to get help, the congresswoman said.
“The best way to help those veterans overcome that challenge is to keep them rooted in their current community,” she said.
Improvements have been made in providing health care for veterans, Sinema added, but she encouraged veterans to let their representatives know about long wait times or barriers to care. One local veteran informed Sinema of having been told to reapply for a medical referral after already waiting a month for it, which Sinema found to be “ridiculous.”
“We are going to intervene in this and say ‘that’s not acceptable,’” she said.
Sinema is seeking the Democratic nomination for a Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former state Sen. Kelli Ward are running for the Republican nomination.