Images of Kitsap County
Public Communications (MS-11)
614 Division Street, Port Orchard, WA
Phone: 360.337.4598
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: July 11, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Jewell, Housing and Homelessness Program Coordinator, Department of Human Services
360.337.7286 or mailto:kjewell@co.kitsap.wa.us

Kurt Weist, Executive Director, Bremerton Housing Authority
360.616.7240 or mailto:kwiest@bremertonhousing.org
No: 2016-064

Moving forward to end veteran homelessness
Landlord fair July 22 in Bremerton

(Port Orchard, WA) – Veterans Day 2016: That’s the date the Homes for All Who Serve initiative set as a target to end veteran homelessness in Kitsap County. Since the start of the initiative in 2015, more than 80 Kitsap homeless veteran families have been successfully housed. However, with less than six months to Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the coalition that is leading the effort – made up of federal, state, and local veterans programs, homeless organizations, and housing providers – needs to identify additional housing units for veterans. To assist in the effort, a Landlord Fair will take place 10 a.m. to noon, Friday, July 22 at Kitsap Community Resources, 1201 Park Street, Bremerton.

“Landlords are key partners in providing rental units for veterans who are being supported by agencies that provide counseling, job search and financial assistance,” said Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent.

The Landlord Fair will have information about the new fair housing laws, housing subsidies, veterans programs that continue to support veterans after they become tenants, and how to participate in ending veteran homelessness.

At last week’s Kitsap Homelessness Workshop, Katy Miller of the U.S. Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness congratulated Kitsap on its work to end veteran homelessness. Participants at the workshop discussed how to expand and improve homeless programs and engage community landlords in this effort.

“Implementing the Kitsap Homeless Housing Plan includes ending veteran homelessness and will take a united community effort. The Homelessness Workshop yielded rich discussions and innovative ideas for moving forward,” commented Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. “The energy from the workshop certainly accelerates our efforts to address homelessness.”

Nationally, a model of “housing first, then services” is proving the most successful for veterans with complex mental health disorders, often co-occurring with physical health issues or substance abuse disorders. Once veterans and their families are stably housed, service providers can assist with issues that contributed to their homelessness. Kitsap County does not yet have Housing First programs for individuals or veterans specifically but a local task force is working to develop this type of housing program.

“To finish the job of ending veteran homelessness in Kitsap, we need two things: 1) more rental units available for veterans who have experienced homelessness; and 2) more Housing First programs for our most vulnerable veterans,” noted Kirsten Jewell, Housing and Homelessness Program Coordinator of the Kitsap County Department of Human Services.

The Homes for All Who Served group conducted an outreach survey to identify homeless veterans in the fall of 2015 and found 45 veterans living outside. Nearly all of those veterans have been housed, are in the process of securing housing, or are unable to be contacted. Another outreach survey will be conducted this month to identify other unsheltered veterans who need assistance.

In January 2016, the annual Point in Time survey of people experiencing homelessness over a 24-hour period found 28 unsheltered veterans – up from nine the prior year. In 2015, 271 veteran families requested housing assistance through the Housing Solutions Center (Kitsap’s one-stop resource center for housing assistance), including 81 who were unsheltered and 41 imminently at risk of losing their housing. Over the last six months, veterans’ service providers have been working to connect them with housing and services.

Funding for private market units for homeless veterans is available through the Housing and Urban Development-Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher program through Veterans Affairs Puget Sound and the Bremerton Housing Authority. Kitsap has 42 of these vouchers which can be re-used as veteran households graduate from the program.

“One of the goals of this effort is to secure even more HUD-VASH vouchers for Kitsap County so that we can assist more veterans,” said BHA Executive Director Kurt Wiest. “With the great efforts of the Homes for All Who Served initiative, we are demonstrating the need for more of these vouchers to HUD and the VA.”

In addition, Kitsap is the beneficiary of additional VA grant funding for low-income veteran families through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, managed locally by the Metropolitan Development Council and Catholic Community Services. Since May 2015, the program has housed 23 veterans and projects a total of 36 by Veterans Day 2016.

HUD-VASH vouchers and SSVF rental assistance funds are paid to private-property owners with rental units. The tight housing market in Kitsap County makes it a challenge to find enough private-market units for veterans. Additional landlords are needed to work with agencies assisting homeless veterans.

“Without additional private-market rental housing, ending homelessness for veterans is going to be very difficult,” Wiest said.

There are specific criteria for ending veteran homelessness, called “functional zero.” In order to meet these, a community must have strategies in place to help all unsheltered veterans who want housing immediately, and resources and referrals to help veterans who need housing assistance in the future. Around the country, cities and counties are announcing success at achieving functional zero. The Homes for All Who Served initiative hopes to join these communities in declaring an end to veteran homelessness in Kitsap County.

Resources for landlords and veterans
The Homes for All Who Served initiative spurred creation of the Kitsap Veteran Housing Options Group – a weekly drop-in, one-stop connection point for veterans to get linked to housing resources and services. Many qualify for programs the same day. The group meets at 1 p.m. every Monday at Kitsap Community Resources, 1201 Park Street, Bremerton. Since its inception, the Veterans Housing Options Group has assisted 117 veterans and their families and served as a conduit to its agency partners for 73 homeless veterans.

Landlords and property owners interested in the Homes for All Who Served project may contact Jackie Fojtik at the Housing Solutions Center, (360) 473-2035. The Housing Solutions Center of Kitsap County is a one-stop program for people experiencing homelessness and housing instability to be linked with social services and affordable housing resources.

A Stand Down for Veterans from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 16 at the Sheridan Community Center in Bremerton will connect veterans with a wide variety of support services and housing options. The last Stand Down in September 2015 attracted more than 200 attendees.

Additional statistics and information about homelessness in Kitsap is available at www.kitsapgov.com/hs/housing/housing_grant.htm.

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Last Updated:  July 12, 2016