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Lack of affordable rentals for veterans causes 'crisis' in Rutherford County

Kenneth McClellan
Posted at 4:08 PM, Apr 11, 2022

SMYRNA, Tenn. (WTVF) — An affordable housing program through the Department of Veterans Affairs is in crisis in Rutherford County because the government agency doesn't have enough landlords signed up to help.

At the Country Place Apartments in Smyrna, Kenneth McClellan is the on-call maintenance man. He moved to the complex five years ago through an affordable housing program. Then, the landlord hired him.

"Feel very lucky," McClellan said. “It means the world to me. I wouldn’t have been able to have a place, a decent place to live, without the VA and them helping me.”

The Tennessee Valley Healthcare System’s Homeless Veteran Program has helped around 1,000 people like McClellan.

"Veterans deserve decent housing," he said.

However, in the past four months, only one affordable housing unit in Rutherford County has been made available for veterans.

"It’s very tough, we lose sleep over it," case manager Amanda Swam said,

In recent years, Swam said they helped dozens of veterans get a roof over their heads.

This year it looks like they'll only be able to help five people as landlords drop out of the program.

"I don’t have the answer, I can’t condemn landlords for raising their rent, I don’t know their situation, all I know is we’re in crisis," Swam said.

McClellan said he feared his fellow veterans will be left homeless since there aren't enough affordable rentals.

"I wish that it was better than it is," McClellan said.

He's hoping landlords will sign up for the program to help those who served the country.

"Please, please, please, even if you have to go out of your way to do it," McClellan said.

The VA in Murfreesboro is working with twenty veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless a second time due to escalating rent costs. Some of those vets are staying in temporary housing.

If you’re a landlord interested in the program, email TVHHomelessProgram@va.gov to learn more about the voucher program.

If you're a veteran experiencing a housing crisis call 877-424-3839.