Sailors escort veterans during a Puget Sound Honor Flight welcome home ceremony

New Program Aims To Help Veterans Experiencing Houselessness Find Homes

by Elizabeth Turnbull

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) launched a program in June that works to connect veterans who are experiencing houselesness with new housing opportunities and additional resources.

Organizers are calling the pilot program a first of its kind in the U.S. as it administers federal housing vouchers for veterans, which provide rental assistance, while also providing participants with supportive services from the King County Veterans Program (KCVP). Caseworkers at KCVP’s Tukwila and Northgate locations are working on the program, which aims to help more than 140 local veterans. 

According to Sherry Hamilton, the communications director for King County, the program will be paid for through existing county, federal, and housing authority resources and will be staffed by existing case managers who currently help veterans connect to housing. Once the program has used the current allotment of vouchers, they hope to make the program a permanent part of KCVP. 

“Nobody who serves in our military, risking their lives to defend us and our country, should experience homelessness,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said in a statement published on July 13. “I hope this collaboration can serve as a nationwide model for preventing and ending Veterans [sic] homelessness, and VA looks forward to implementing similar partnerships in communities across America.”

In 2018, Washington was one of five states in the nation where over half of the veterans experiencing homelessness were unsheltered, and the Seattle/King County area had the third-highest number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the country, according to federal data. The same year however, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Washington State decreased 21.8%. 

Even though veterans are usually eligible for federal housing assistance vouchers, many of these vouchers go unused because of problems that can compound with homelessness.

Through KCVP, the program intends to help veterans overcome obstacles they face to finding stable housing by combining these vouchers with employment and training resources, access to physical and behavioral health services, and assistance with emergency food and other assistance. 

Case managers at KCVP will also partner directly with KCHA to identify units that accept the federal housing vouchers. Organizers are hoping that this approach will help participants obtain and maintain housing opportunities. 

One local veteran, Rebecca Murch, executive director of the organization The Seattle Stand Down, which aims to end homelessness for veterans, is optimistic about the program’s effectiveness and potential.

“It only makes sense that these two programs can partner to better and more efficiently serve our veterans in need of housing and a multitude of other wrap-around services,” Murch told the Emerald. “The partnering of these two agencies should enable them to house veterans much quicker, thus saving money in the long run and taking the burden off of other social service programs and the community.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

📸 Featured Image: “Sailors escort veterans during a Puget Sound Honor Flight welcome home ceremony” via the Official U.S. Navy Page on Flickr — used under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence (CC BY 2.0).

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