In May the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program received an additional $1.6 million to provide rental assistance and emergency housing support to area veterans impacted by COVID-19.
The SSVF program added staff to help meet the need for services. The program has seen an increase in the need for services since COVID-19 hit in late March.
Braden Fish is the general manager for homeless transition services. “We usually see around 20 enrollments a month, but we had almost 40 in May,” he said. The SSVF program saw five new enrollments on June 1 alone.
Veterans are facing some big hurdles right now because of COVID-19. Like many people, they are losing their jobs and are unable to pay rent. They are living paycheck to paycheck. The Washington state governor has mandated a moratorium on evictions until October 15, but that day is coming quickly. “The additional CARES funding we received allows SSVF to help veterans who are behind on their rent and out of work to get caught up and avoid becoming homeless,” said Braden.
The SSVF program recently added two employment specialists who can assist veterans who are unemployed to find work.
SSVF program staff report that affordable housing is more limited than usual because evictions have been on hold. To keep veterans from living on the streets, SSVF can place eligible veterans into transitional or emergency housing, such as a hotel, until more permanent units become available.
In a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in January, homelessness in the U.S. increased 2.7 percent in 2019. It is anticipated that rate will continue to rise in 2020 because of multiple economic impacts from COVID-19.
“This funding comes at a critical time for veterans who are in shelters, on the street, or at risk of becoming evicted,” said Michele Harris, Vice President of Workforce & Family Services. “With unemployment at all-time high levels, many of our citizens are struggling to pay rent and shelters are running at full capacity. This funding increases homeless prevention assistance, which is in very short supply in our community,” she said.
Veterans who need help in Spokane, Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Whitman Kootenai, Bonner, Shoshone, Benewah, and Boundary counties should call the 24-hour veteran hotline at (509) 828-2449. Veterans can also walk in to the Goodwill Administration office located at 130 E. Third Avenue in Spokane, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staff are on hand to assess their needs and eligibility for services.