Veterans can Overcome Barriers to Independence

 In Veterans

Overcoming Barriers to Independence

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n November, we celebrate Veterans Day, honoring the men and women who have sacrificed for our country, and those who continue to stand in the gap for freedom. Many veterans, of all ages and all branches of service, face hurdles when they return to civilian life.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 57,849 veterans are homeless in the U.S. on any given night. More than 50% of those homeless veterans are under the age of 50. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that about 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in substandard housing.

In our lovely corner of the United States, close to 2000 veterans are homeless in Spokane and neighboring communities.With a passion to tackle this issue, Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest formed a partnership with Volunteers of America and Transitions, and with the help of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans and Spokane County Vets, pursued a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for Supportive Service for Veterans Families (SSVF). The program launched in Spokane in November 2013.

Goodwill’s SSVF program helps veterans set goals, connect to resources in the community, and establish themselves in stable housing. SSVF has served more than 280 local veterans since its launch last November.

In early 2014, Goodwill’s SSVF staff began expanding their reach into more rural communities surrounding Spokane, including Kootenai County. Outreach teams fan out into the community, developing relationships through local shelters and community gathering places. They are also visiting homeless camps to develop relationships and seek those individuals whom the SSVF program can help. Some of them are leery to trust strangers. Others have had bad experiences. Others are humbled to admit that they are a veteran who is now homeless. “You have no idea how demoralizing it was to tell people that I was a veteran, and then have to reveal that I was homeless,” relates Dale, a veteran of the Gulf War.

This summer, Goodwill was awarded a renewal of their $1.3 million grant, and was also awarded a three-year $2.9 million “Priority One” grant to serve 165 veterans who are chronically homeless in Spokane. Funding for both began in October. The Spokane region has been identified as a “Priority One” community for veterans due to the size of the veteran population, the number of veterans who are homeless, and other factors.

The SSVF program has served veterans in a variety of circumstances. Louise Snare is legally blind, and was living in a crumbling and unimproved basement, until we helped her gather the deposit she needed to move into a safe apartment community. Chuck Elmore saved up his money and moved his family of 5 and their 2 dogs across country to be closer to family and access better medical services, but a series of events and car-troubles along the journey left them almost penniless when they finally arrived in Spokane. When the Elmore family found Goodwill’s SSVF program, they were joyed to reassure their children, “Everything is going to be ok. We are going to be just fine.” And they are. The family is now settled in a home, the kids are in school, and Mom is working.

The need in our veteran community is great. Helping these men and women establish safe and secure housing is a natural extension of Goodwill’s mission to help men and women in our communities overcome barriers to independence. If you would like to know more about the SSVF program, please call 509-838-4246.

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