King County voucher program helps homeless vets find housing

In 2018, a one-night count showed nearly 1,300 veterans were experiencing homelessness in King County. A King County Councilmember says new programs to help those veterans find permanent housing locally are having some success.    

A new shelter in Shoreline in north King County has been part of the solution.

"We are bringing almost 50 people a night into that former nursing home," said Rod Dembowski, the King County Councilmember representing North King County.   

King County also launched a new program in 2021 to help homeless vets connect to housing, called the Collaborative Case Management Pilot Program. It pairs federal vouchers that might otherwise have gone unused.

"The program is our latest example where we took a VASH voucher, which is a housing voucher from the federal government for veterans, combined it with local needs and have got about 100 of those out," said Dembowski.

By June 2022, the program reports that it had helped 75 vets find and move into permanent housing. It also shows that 99 vets had utilized housing navigation services and 219 vets were referred to the program. 

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Dembowski says in addition to housing, King County also has other programs to help with behavioral health and food insecurity.  

"We have our own veterans service and senior services levy it’s been renewed several times by the voters of the county and what it means is, King County has one of, if not the very best, local programs for veterans in the entire country," said Dembowski. 

He says if you are a vet that needs help with services, call the county or 211 to get more information. 

The VA reports that the HUD Point-In-Time Count showed that on a single night in January 2020, more than 37,000 veterans were homeless nationwide. 

We spoke with Shoreline veteran Brian Baxter on Veterans Day. He was in the service twice. He flew a small transport plane, then flew on a cargo plane in Vietnam. He got out, then went back into the reserves. 

"Our reserve unit got called up for active duty for Desert Storm," said Baxter.

He served as the Loadmaster on cargo flights to places like Saudi Arabia. He said he traveled to six continents as part of his job.  Although he never experienced homelessness after getting out of the service, he says many vets do.

"Oftentimes, veterans come out of the service, and they are at loose ends," said Baxter. "With the despair, the depression and the PTSD, and those things, they fall oftentimes into substance abuse."