Department of Labor awards grant to Pima County to assist homeless veterans

PIMA COUNTY — The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $236,654 grant to Pima County to move homeless veterans into stable employment.

The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program connects active duty military veterans who are homeless with employment and training programs. The goal is to link vets to jobs with a target wage of at least $12.50/hour.

If the county meets its goal of enrolling at least 100 veterans into the program, the grant can be renewed for up to three more years, said David Balderrama, program coordinator for the project and director of the Kino Veterans’ Workforce Center, part of Pima County’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department.

“This grant isn’t just about providing services. It’s about moving our veterans forward into good-paying jobs,” Balderrama said.

The Kino Vets’ Center will work closely with case managers at Pima County’s Sullivan Jackson Employment Center, the Southern AZ VA Health Care System and agencies such as Old Pueblo Community Services and Primavera.

Those partners will assist with finding shelter and other services for program participants, said Michael Gates, a program coordinator with the Kino Workforce Center. That will allow the Kino staff to concentrate on connecting vets to job training, career counseling and resume preparation as well as paying for job-related expenses such as uniforms, tools or eyeglasses.

One veteran Balderrama is moving into the program retired from the military, and was stationed at one time at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. He worked in municipal government in Mississippi, but developed a drinking problem. He’s hoping a change in scenery – and the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program – will help him get his life back on track.

Daniel Sullivan is the program manager of the county’s Sullivan Jackson Employment Center, which assists homeless job-seekers. He’s looking forward to connecting veterans to funding and programs that can make a real difference in their lives.

“This program is going to do amazing things for people who made great sacrifices in service to our country,” Sullivan said.

Homeless veterans wishing to learn more about the program should contact David Balderrama at the Kino Veterans’ Workforce Center, 2801 E. Ajo Way, at 520-724-2609,

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is expected to authorize acceptance of the grant at its Aug. 1 meeting.