New program seeks to serve low-income, homeless and at-risk rural veterans

May 27, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University announced Wednesday (May 27) the Reaching Rural Veterans initiative, a new effort that will help address needs of low-income, homeless and at-risk rural veterans in Indiana and Kentucky.

The Reaching Rural Veterans project is a collaboration among MFRI, Purdue Extension, the VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky. Funded by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Rural Health, the project will provide grants, education and resources to faith-based food pantries in rural areas in order to mobilize communities to provide resources and services that address the needs of military and veteran families.

The mission of the VHA Office of Rural Health is to improve access and quality of care for enrolled rural and highly rural veterans by developing evidence-based policies and innovative practices to support the unique needs of veterans residing in geographically remote areas. This is consistent with the goals of the collaborating partners.

As part of the grant process, faith-based communities will be provided with materials and education about the strengths and struggles of military and veteran families. In addition, MFRI will help them reach out to veteran- and military-specific service organizations that can provide services at faith-based food pantries. Participating pantries may also be asked to participate in Point-in-Time Counts, which are required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Every year HUD requires communities to conduct counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing. Every other year, HUD requires communities to conduct counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation such as under bridges, in parks or in unoccupied buildings. In some years, including this year, both sheltered and unsheltered counts are conducted.

Correctly counting a community’s homeless veterans and families can impact the amount of monetary aid and resources for veteran and military families in the rural areas being served through the Reaching Rural Veterans Project.

Faith-based food pantries will be invited to complete an application to receive a small grant and resource toolkit that can assist in understanding members of the military, veterans and their families.

Addressing a community’s needs for food, shelter and employment is an important step in establishing stronger bonds between faith-based communities and the military and veteran populations,” said Martina Sternberg, assistant director of the Military Family Research Institute. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with such excellent partners and to be able to increase resources for military-affiliated families who live in rural areas.”

Participating Organizations:

* VHA Office of Rural Health: The VA Office of Rural Health works to optimize the use of available and emerging technologies, establish new access points to care, and employ strategies to increase health-care options for all rural veterans. (

* VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships: The VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships develop partnerships with, provide relevant information to and expand participation of faith-based, nonprofit and community/neighborhood organizations to better serve the needs of veterans and their families. (

United States Department of Agriculture: The United States Department of Agriculture oversees education, production, research and many other areas relating to food, the environment and farming. (

Military Family Research Institute: Through research and outreach, MFRI works closely with collaborators to improve the lives of veterans and military families. (

Purdue University Extension is one of the nation's largest providers of scientific research-based information and education providers of practical solutions to issues by providing information and expertise. (

Writer: Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, Digital Content/Special Projects, MFRI 

Source: Martina Sternberg, Assistant Director, Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. Contact: or 7654963469 

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