Across the United States, more than 37,000 military veterans experienced homelessness in January 2019, with about 290 of Alabama’s bravest heroes among them. Veterans face the same issues that contribute to homelessness for all populations, such as a lack of affordable housing or access to healthcare, as well as a difficult transition to life off the battlefield.
“The transition from military service to civilian life can be filled with a number of obstacles,” said Lula Skowronek, Director of United Way’s Priority Veteran program. “Veterans have higher rates of unemployment, depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
Such a significant issue requires special attention; and in Alabama, that comes from Priority Veteran. Through United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA), Priority Veteran serves veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Since 2014, Priority Veteran has helped more than 1,900 veterans find stable housing through one-on-one case management. In 2019 alone, the program helped 490 veterans.
For many, the support system offered by Priority Veteran is the final piece of the puzzle for long-term stability. One client, for example, who faced homelessness after a divorce, found Priority Veteran through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). “He was participating in the Veteran Readiness and Employment Service while still at a homeless shelter,” said Nichole Zanders, a Priority Veteran case manager. “They referred him to us to help him find housing.”
In just six months, the client has made significant strides toward full independence.
“He’s employed, has a car and pays his own utilities and part of his rent,” said Zanders. “He’s invested in furniture for his apartment to make it feel more like home; and the management at his apartment complex told us that he’s an excellent tenant.”
Currently, the client is employed through the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program, but the VA hopes to be able to offer him a permanent position, due to his superior work ethic and leadership skills. He has even able to help his daughter, a student at the University of Alabama.
“He’s doing amazing,” said Zanders. “He just needed a little guidance.”
This client is just one of Priority Veteran’s almost 2,000 success stories. You can help support Priority Veteran and the many other United Way programs by giving to UWCA. Together, we can make hope happen and build an even stronger community.