By Darla Shelden. City Sentinel Reporter—
This story first appeared online on Nov. 16, 2020.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Supportive Services For Veteran Families (SSVF) operated through Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma, has successfully achieved its goal to house 100 homeless veterans in 30 days through an $830,000 grant as part of CARES Act funding.
As a result, SSVF needs landlords to step up and help those veterans get into more long-term housing.
“We housed more than 100 veterans in less than two months and have more than 500 homeless veterans in our program now,” said Senior Program Manager for SSVF and Navy Veteran Tanya Howard.
“Over 100 of these veterans are in hotels around the city because we are having an issue finding enough landlords who will take in our veterans for the longer term,” Howard added.
SSVF is a program that works to rapidly re-house veteran families and those at risk of homelessness.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes grants available to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives to provide eligible Veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other mainstream benefits that promote housing stability and community integration.
Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma started the SSVF grant program in 2014 and serves over 400 Oklahoma veterans a year who are experiencing homelessness or are on the brink of homelessness.
Many veterans served through SSVF have rental barriers and limited or no income that impact their ability to find long-term affordable housing. In addition, the federal eviction moratorium is in place through the end of the year and more veterans are losing jobs because of COVID-19.
“With the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen a significant increase in the percentage of unemployed veterans spiking from 4.1 percent to 13.3 percent with single veteran mothers impacted greatly,” said Jim Priest, Goodwill President and Chief Executive Officer.
Through Goodwill, the SSVF program provides temporary supportive services including paying rent and utilities for six months, penalties and fees, deposits, moving costs, transportation, childcare, food, furniture, job placement and more to maintain long-term housing stability.
A caseworker is assigned to each veteran to give them individualized services to help them become stable enough to live on their own.
Services are available at no cost to veterans and their families in Canadian, Logan, Seminole, Lincoln, Pottawatomie, Cleveland and Oklahoma counties.
Veteran Michael Patton went through the SSVF program a year and a half ago after living out on the streets and contemplating suicide.
Patton recalled, “I went through the VA, and the VA connected me to Goodwill, and the first day I walked in there, they opened their arms and said, ‘well what can we do for you?’”
Patton is now a full-time store associate at Goodwill in Midwest City and lives in an apartment near his job.
“It really feels like they saved my life, and I’m going to be forever grateful to Goodwill,” Patton said.
Through Goodwill, SSVF is hoping to find more landlords in the community willing to rent apartments, houses or duplexes to veterans working to get back on their feet.
“We’ve forged great relationships with local hotels,” Howard said. “As a result, they’ve seen firsthand the challenges this population faces. While we are so grateful to these hotel owners taking them in during this scary time, these veterans deserve a home of their own.”
A community-based, nonprofit agency, Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma has one outlet store, 24 retail stores, 17 attended donation centers, and a Job Connection Center serving central Oklahoma, Ada and Ardmore.
Goodwill funds job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs by selling donated clothing and household items.
To learn more about SSVF or to find a Goodwill location near you, visit okgoodwill.org.