Spokane Journal of Business

$8 million in grants on tap to help area homeless

Goodwill receives two grants to help veterans

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About $8 million in federal grants have been awarded to Spokane-area agencies this summer to support housing and self-sufficiency programs for the homeless, more than half of which will go to programs intended to help homeless veterans in particular. 

In early October, Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest will begin working with homeless or near-homeless veterans in Spokane after receiving two federal grants totaling more than $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

One of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families grants is a renewal for an additional year of a $1.3 million program that will target a total of 325 veterans and their families, and help them quickly find housing so they can address other problems they may have.

Goodwill launched the SSVF program last October, in partnership with Volunteers of America and Transitions, a local program designed to end poverty and homelessness for women and children here. The program has served more than 180 at-risk veterans since its launch. 

SSVF uses a “housing-first” approach with veterans, focused on housing stability, with an emphasis on crisis intervention and client self-determination, says Heather Alexander, Goodwill spokeswoman.

Another grant will provide $3 million over a three-year period starting Oct. 1 and will target 165 veterans and veterans’ families, specifically in downtown Spokane.

Goodwill is adding nine new staff members to administer the grants, Alexander says. New staff members will provide a higher level of services for veterans in a focused effort to get them into housing and a more stable environment, she says. 

“We’ve found that when we’re able to get these people into stable housing they can then take care of other needs in their lives,” Alexander says. 

She says the grant also will provide outreach funding to find veterans who might be embarrassed to be in such a vulnerable position. 

“There’s an element of pride there,” she says. “These people have served their country, and yet they don’t have a home. There may be a lot going on with them including medical and mental health issues.” 

Alexander says Goodwill will provide basic services, such as helping individuals establish identification, obtain a driver’s license, and set up transportation. Some also need help obtaining VA benefits and accessing other public resources that are available to them through federal or state agencies, she says. 

“Once we’ve identified them, our case managers get deeply involved helping them,” she says. Other services for veterans may include education on finding employment, help creating a resume, and assistance on finding a job online. 

“Things in this area have changed so much just in the last 10 years,” she says. “We work on helping people navigate the (system), and help them get housing. Our intent is to give them a hand up to get started and get settled.” 

Alexander says most of the time people don’t plan on being homeless, but find themselves there through a variety of circumstances. She says Goodwill serves veterans of all ages, including those who served in Vietnam. 

“It’s been a hard experience for them,” she says. “People have looked down on them and they’ve been told no so many times … so to hear yes, we can help you, means the world to them. They’ve given so much to protect our freedom, it’s great to give back to them.”

A separate $3.4 million grant, awarded to the city of Spokane’s Continuum of Care program, will provide funding from the federal Housing and Urban Development department to other homeless individuals for permanent housing, rental assistance, support services in shelters and transitional housing, says Sheila Morely, a program coordinator for the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services.  

Morely says the grant will fund 30 renewal projects and two new projects to support the homeless population in Spokane. The first of the new projects is called rapid rehousing, which will help 85 families on the edge of homelessness return to a home of their own, Morely says. The Spokane Housing Authority and Catholic Charities of Spokane will be involved in the project.

“It is a program that will help families with children who are on the street or on the edge of the system to return to a home,” Morely says. “The agency helps with a home search and will find a market rate unit or a rental assistance subsidy in the Spokane County area.” She says the amount provided to each family will depend on each family’s need. 

She says the city will administer the grant and monitor its progress, as well as ensure that it’s meeting goals and serving the right population. 

The other new project being funded under the grant is one that will identify 21 individuals who have been chronically homeless and are high-need clients, Morely says. 

“Clients must have been homeless for more than a year or have had more than four episodes of homelessness within the last three years,” she says. 

The 21 clients who are chosen will receive subsidized, permanent housing, and intensive support, she says.

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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