SIDNEY — In February 2014, on the coldest day in decades, Mark Rinderle, of Sidney, talked with the Sidney Daily News about what it was like to be homeless when temperatures hit 18 degrees below zero.
This winter, Rinderle will be warmer. In May, he secured housing — an apartment — through a program called Home for the Holidays.
The six-year project is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Veterans Administration (VA). Its goal was to get all homeless veterans into housing by the end of this year.
“We go to shelters in Dayton,” said HUD-VA Supported Housing Coordinator Angela Byrd, of Dayton. “In counties where we don’t have shelters, we go to food pantries.”
It was at the Alpha Community Center that Rinderle learned he might be eligible for VA help. After living for more than a year in a daughter’s garage, he had moved into the two-bedroom apartment of his other daughter.
“But there were four other adults and four kids living there, too,” he said. A staff member at the Alpha Center showed Rinderle a poster about the program and suggested he call the VA.
To qualify for HUD-VASH help, veterans must have incomes of less than $22,000 per year and must have been homeless for at least a year or have had three episodes of homelessness within a year.
According to Byrd, friends or relatives of homeless vets will sometimes provide a room or a couch for a short period of time, but when that time is over, the vets are back on the streets.
“We’ve partnered with (county) metropolitan housing (agencies) to provide Section 8 vouchers for housing,” Byrd said.
Shelby County was not included in the program when it began in 2009. In fact, it wasn’t until this year that 12 vouchers were made available to the local office for distribution.
“We have nine leased,” said Shelby County Metropolitan Housing Executive Director Judith Wells. “Seven are in Shelby County and two are in Miami County. Our goal is to get them all leased by the end of the year.”
Candidates for support are asked to complete public housing authorization applications, and if the applications are approved, vouchers can be issued within one or two days. Caseworkers will transport a vet to his apartment, which must be inspected by the metropolitan housing staff.
“We look at the unit to make sure it passes housing quality standards and that the rent is reasonable for the area,” said Wells. “Sometimes we pay all the rent and provide a utility reimbursement.” The amount of support is based on a vet’s income.
Byrd said in Shelby County, vets can get into apartments in as little as a week.
Rinderle wasn’t always homeless. He once had a good job, a house, a family, the Daily News reported in 2014.
He joined the staff at Crown Equipment Corp. in 1979, left in 1980 to enter the Army, and returned in 1983. He was employed by Crown until 2004, when his doctor prevented him from working because he had a broken bone in his hand. According to Rinderle, the bone had broken during repetitive-motion use in his job as a stock-handling lift truck driver, and he had continued to work with the broken bone for a year and a half.
When his doctor had him stop, Rinderle saw surgeons in Lima and Dayton, but, he said, because there was no specific date of injury, his expenses could not be covered by worker’s compensation insurance. He was paid sick leave benefits by Crown for a year, but in 2005, he said, “They let me go.”
He had become a single parent when he and his wife were divorced in 2001. In March 2006, the bank foreclosed on his house and he had to leave it.
Now, he is under the caring eye of his VA caseworker.
“We’re going to be part of their life,” said Byrd of the vets she and fellow caseworker Edith Thompson has helped. “We work as a team.” Vets are able to get counseling and referrals in addition to housing and utility vouchers.
Through the VA, Rinderle learned that he was eligible for a service-related, partial-disability stipend. As it was retroactive, he received a lump sum of $1,800 and now gets $133 each month. The only income he has, he uses it to cover car and renter’s insurance.
“Left over money buys deoderant or shampoo. I can’t buy both at the same time,” he said. He works at the Alpha Center 24 hours per month for food stamps. He used some of the $1,800 to purchase a 21-year-old pick-up truck, with which he does odd jobs for people he knows and helps out car-less friends in exchange for gas money.
“I help as many people as I can,” he said. Recently, he put in extra hours, off the clock and as a volunteer, to paint the interior of the Alpha Center.
“I’m a good painter,” he added. He keeps his apartment spotless, even though he feels it’s not the perfect place to be.
“A lot of things aren’t ideal,” Rinderle said. “This isn’t the ideal apartment. But it’s better than what the alternative is.” He worries that he’s on the second floor of a complex and his unit has only one door for entrance and exit.
“I want to be on the ground floor. I’d rather find an itty bitty cabin in the country, even if it was a shack,” he said. He enjoys playing dominoes with a friend and with his grandchildren. He’s a survivor.
“I used to like to go to Eldora, but the money isn’t there,” he said. “Buying clothes — you don’t do it. My shoes are two years old. They’re shot, but you wear them ‘til they fall apart. But I’m not complaining. If I have a roof over my head and food to eat, I’m okay. The good Lord’s providing for me. All I can say is, ‘Thank you.’ Hopefully, I’ll be here another day to do it again.”
Rinderle would like to see other local homeless veterans find housing soon.
“One guy I met this summer is living at the end of South Street,” he said. “This article may help out other vets.”
Wells, too, wants to get the word out that some vouchers are still available.
“I don’t know that we have reached everyone. There probably are some (homeless veterans) out there (whom we haven’t identified). It’s a good program. We’ll do whatever we need to do to get them housing,” she said.
For information or to refer a vet for the program, call 498-9898.
Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.