Two members of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s leadership team visited the King County Veterans Program facility in Belltown, Seattle, last week to learn more about how employees are helping local veterans live healthy and productive lives after their military service has ended.
Senior Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett and Gary Kurihara, Lean Transformation Director, met with Program Manager Bryan Fry and Pat Lemus, Assistant Division Director for Community Services Division, to tour the facility, talk with some employees and find out more about their work.
The King County Veterans Programs serves veterans and current service members at two locations, Seattle and Renton, and assists approximately 2,400 veterans each year, roughly split across the two locations. But the client needs are somewhat different between the two offices.
“About 50% of clients who present to the Seattle office at the time of presentation are homeless, whereas in south King County it’s 25%,” Fry said, explaining that clients in Renton often have more protective factors in place. “They are currently housed but they present with a three day ‘pay or vacate’ notice or they might not be working but they’ve worked within the last year and have a resume and skills that are ready to transition. This client population [in Seattle] is a little bit more in the chronically homeless, high system utilizer population.”
Fry and Lemus discussed the challenges facing veterans and the types of services they can access through the program. They also talked about their goal of bringing stability to the lives of clients so they reach a place where they no longer need to access services.
They also shared the success story of a 72-year-old Air Force veteran who was already struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income with the rising cost of living in King County when his landlord advised him that he was remodeling the building and rents would be going up $400 a month, making it ineligible for housing authority vouchers. So he came to the Veterans Program for help getting back to work.
His case manager worked with him on updating his resume and did interview training with him. Within a month he landed a job at SeaTac Airport. Now the program is helping him transition to a new affordable senior housing facility.
Jarrett and Kurihara also spoke with some social work and case work employees, including Fran Nowak, Roz Hurskin and Kenjamine Jackson, to hear their perspectives on the program.
“I am inspired by the dedication of Veterans Services employees and the difference they help local veterans make in their lives, removing barriers and making sure they get the support and services that help them make their lives healthy and successful,” Fred Jarrett, Senior Deputy County Executive, said. “It was a great opportunity to hear some of the stories from these employees about the work they do in connecting veterans to affordable housing, job training and employment opportunities, or behavioral health services, and the difference they make for veterans in our community.”
Executive Constantine has proposed replacing the Veterans and Human Services Levy when it expires at the end of 2017. The Metropolitan King County Council approved legislation putting the Veteran, Seniors and Human Services Levy on the November 7, 2017 General Election ballot.