SSVF helps Michael build independence through housing assistance

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July 13, 2015

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Michael had two goals at the end of last summer. He wanted to quit drinking and to finish his Bachelor degree at Eastern Washington University.

Before Michael moved to Spokane, he had arranged to stay with friends, but when he arrived, Michael realized the lifestyle of the household would not support his desire to quit drinking. He chose to live in his car rather than face that temptation.

Soon, Michael connected with the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program in Spokane. HCHV referred him to the VA’s Recovery Support for Veterans Program, which provided temporary housing. He completed the program six weeks later. He was sober and enrolled at EWU, but still without a place of his own. Michael spent his nights sleeping on the couch at a new friend’s house. It was then that Michael heard about Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

SSVF staff promptly qualified him for program services and housing assistance. His case manager, Marisol, encouraged him to advocate for himself.

Excited to move forward, Michael fetched some belongings from Wenatchee, and on his return to Spokane, decided to splurge on a hotel room. “The cost was worth sleeping in peace and having a private bathroom,” he said. He parked his car near his hotel room, careful to leave it beneath an overhead light and a security camera and brought personal items into the room.

When Michael went to his car the next morning, it was gone. When police finally recovered the car a week later, Michael’s valuables were gone, but thankfully the monetary loss was not substantial. He lost a sentimental family heirloom, however, and all of his personal documents were stolen.

Not swayed from continuing his forward momentum, Michael found an opening at EWU’s University Apartments. The SSVF program provided a deposit and rent. As classes began, however, Michael was struggling again. “I was homesick and my confidence was shot,” Michael said. “I thought about quitting.” In the past, Michael would have turned to alcohol, but instead he turned to his SSVF case manager for support. She listened carefully, then advised that he return to counseling.

Within a few weeks, Michael had renewed healthy habits like meditation, exercise, good nutrition and regular sleep. He finished the quarter on the Dean’s list with a 4.0 grade point average.

To aid him in his ongoing success, SSVF helped Michael obtain a HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher. EWU did not have a unit that qualified for the voucher, and Michael faced significant fees for ending his lease early. SSVF and EWU’s Veterans Resource Center actively advocated for a waiver that would release Michael from the lease and return his security deposit.

Time was quickly ticking away toward the expiration of Michael’s HUD-VASH voucher. He needed the deposit money from his apartment at EWU in order to put a deposit down on another place. Worried that he would not be able to secure a place in time, Michael decided to sell his car. He put a deposit down on an apartment in the Corbin Park neighborhood. Eventually, EWU did refund his deposit. Michael is grateful for the vocal support of SSVF and EWU’s Veterans Resource Center.

Michael moved into his new place in January. The location makes it easy for him to get to the VA hospital for medical care and to Riverpoint Campus where his program is located.

After Michael graduates next year, he plans to pursue a Masters of Public Health Degree. He wants to work with others who have experienced homelessness and addiction. Michael believes his story not only lends itself to understanding how others feel in that position, but adds to his credibility. “Many times, people in these circumstances will only trust someone who has been down the same road,” he said.

Michael said that SSVF works because it helps people with the most basic needs. “In psychology, we learn that without those basics, safety, shelter and food security, any person will start to feel traumatized ... I think I’m proof that proper support can have transformative results.”