According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Business Survey, “Veteran-owned businesses made up about 5.9% (337,934) of all businesses, with an estimated $947.7 billion in receipts, approximately 3.9 million employees, and about $177.7 billion in annual payroll”. Iraq War Veteran Jeff Shuford as well as former NFL player Drayton Florence founded Invest in Veterans Week as way to get the public to give back to our nation’s Veterans as much as they have given back to us in ways like “Veteran-owned business sustainment, educational development, and mental health empowerment.”
At Catholic Charities of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, Veterans are a big part of our mission to “lift people to the dignity of self-reliance”. Whether it is through housing case management, emergency and social security benefit assistance/other resources and referrals, employment services, and one-on-one counseling, we want to make sure the impact they brought in their time of service and combat is felt and extended to make them valued members of society as well.
Housing is a way our Veterans are helped to come back into the societies they lived in to help them live a continued life of respect and honor. In FY 2020-2021, we invested $1,279,202 in rent assistance and lease payments to our Veterans and surrounding community to make sure those that stay with us will never go homeless again.
Aaron Seiwald, Program Specialist for the “Supportive Services for Veteran Families” program (SSVF), said that to first be entered into SSVF they need an eviction letter. After a 15–30-minute interview and the criteria they fall under such as having to be a honorably discharged Veteran, they will go into two different programs: either Rapid Rehousing or Homeless Prevention (HP).
“If you are National Guard, you need a special title such as Title 10, the Presidential order to go overseas” Seiwald said.
Seiwald said Rapid Rehousing is where you’re homeless and do not know where you are staying tonight and, in the days, to come. HP on the other hand is, “you have a safe place to stay right now, but you are supposed to be out in a week or two. They are figuring out where to go next” Seiwald said.
After asking more situational questions such as: do they have still had a place to go after this, do you have job they put that all into a point system given by the VA telling them which program they would be eligible for, barring income requirements.
“We have to follow an income for each county. If you are above our income, we can’t help you” Seiwald said. “If you are in HUD, VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) if you are in these programs, we cannot help you”. If SSVF cannot help you, they will work with you to try and find an organization that can. They will work their connections to make sure no one is left behind.
To determine if they qualify, they go through a method called “SQUARES” (Status Query and Response Exchange System) that is given by the VA to show if they are a Veteran and can receive SSVF or Section 8/HUD-VASH/ or VA healthcare benefits.
The point system for Rapid Rehousing is predicated on a certain number of points to be further admitted into the program. If they do not pass, SSVF will look at other resources to help them out further. They will send the Veteran’s information over to the resource they are requesting for them and calling the Veteran during the process, so they are always aware.
With Homeless Prevention, it is the same questions, but with a higher threshold that the Veterans must score. Based on how immediate your situation is, the higher your score telling them you’ll be homeless in the next 1-6 days all the way up to 30+ days as well as your eviction background and your mental health history. “If you already have a place to stay and have an eviction background, we want you to stay there because it is very hard if someone has an eviction under their name [to get re-housed]” Seiwald said.
The next step is doing an intake, where once they sign all the paperwork and given a list of apartments to choose from. SSVF acts as the mediator for the Veteran, that once they choose a place SSVF will call the landlord guiding the Veteran through the next steps of the process. In the process of doing the intake, they will find out how long the Veteran needs the program and what their specific needs are. Every month they will ask questions like: what do you see in a month? What do you want to achieve? What are you hoping to do? If the Veteran answer all those questions with confidence and independence, SSVF will let them go. “After nine months or less, we close them out” Seiwald said. “It’s case by case and what their goals are between the case manager and the client”.
Another program SSVF has is Shallow Subsidy (SS). To be considered, Veterans must have gone through the Homeless Prevention or Rapid Rehousing programs first. Seiwald says Shallow Subsidy is a program to continue helping Veterans forward making sure they get the full assistance needed for self-dependence moving forward. “Shallow Subsidy is basically a term for a Veteran that needs a little more help than usual. We will pay half of everything” Seiwald said. “They will pay half of rent, half of the utility bills, [among other bills] and the Veterans are required to pay the other half. We get them to save a little money if they can’t pay the full end.” Seiwald says that this program lasts two years and are automatically transferred into Shallow Subsidy if they are a good fit.
Yolanda Quintero, SSVF Program Specialist, said that after securing housing and employment, if you still need assistance after 90 days, you can be moved into Shallow Subsidy. Quintero explains Shallow Subsidy is not a permanent answer to a Veteran’s struggles, but merely as a “brace” after the initial SSVF nine-month program to get them to their desired goals whether it is affording housing or increasing their income. “Searching for a higher paying job, looking to go into an apprenticeship, things like that to increase stability” Quintero said. “This is the best way that [the VA] saw that we could have Veterans meet their goals and actually have true sustainability.”
Quintero said that their targeted population is senior citizen age because of their help with social security and disability assistance, but it is not limited to that age group and no matter the age, if you need them, they are willing to help you. “You could be a person that is disabled, you could be in your 40s and say…’hey the wage is not enough’” Quintero said. “We need a Veteran that is capable of saying I am ready to stand on my own two feet. I just need help a little bit further…”.
At CCKCSJ, we believe housing is of the utmost priority and importance for a Veteran to live out the rest of his days in the liberty of dignity and self-respect, but to do that they need a fair living wage. That is why through our Employment Services program whether it is helping with resumes or networking, we want to make sure our Veterans can contribute the other gifts they’ve been given outside of their loyalty in fighting for this nation.
Seiwald says a big emphasis is placed on helping Veterans without transportation and making sure they can get the job they want with that mind. “We understand they might not to be able to get to that location, so we walk along with the Veteran to find the best solutions for them”, Seiwald said. “It all depends on what they want and what their resume says and then we try and combine it and see what works best.”
Rhonda Gonzalez, SSVF Housing Case Manager, also said that they have their clients work with the Catholic Charities Workforce Development Program and the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program.
For more information, email CCKCSJ Employment Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (816) 398-6894.
A Health Care Navigator where the Navigator will ask questions regarding VA healthcare, helping set up doctor’s appointments, and any paperwork regarding disability. It is all up to the Veteran however, to decide what kind of healthcare they want to receive, and they will not get anything they are not seeking. The Health Care Navigator helps Veterans apply for disability and they are willing to walk with the Veteran every step of the way with therapists giving them the best quality of care.
Investing in our Veteran community is not something CCKCSJ does alone, but with the help and support of people in the community, it is possible. “Every quarter, we go out in the community and pass out information about us in the 18 counties of Missouri that we serve”, Seiwald said. “We go out… and say hey if you know any fire departments, police departments, libraries that know homeless Veterans to have them call us so we can get them screened.”
Through organizations like the Salvation Army and the Veterans Community Project, a non-profit organization, as well as Hope Faith; we take comfort knowing if we do not have the capacity at the time to take care of them, we have others that can.
Gonzalez stated VCP is a place they send clients to for quarterly dental services, while Hope Faith has a vision clinic every Wednesday from 9 AM-12:30 PM. “If you are going to the VA that doesn’t mean you are eligible for dental, and they may not be getting vision” said Marsha Herriford, SSVF Health Care Navigator. “So that is something we have to find in the community.” Herriford that is the biggest barrier to care is not the amount of treatment options, but getting the next step done in being able to set up an appointment.
Seiwald tells the story of a man that was in and out of the hospital that hits hard all too well with Veterans and the problems they endure. “You’re going to be in and out of the hospital. You don’t really have a lot of money. We know that you will need more help after nine months” Seiwald said. “So, we will always use our resources… but we will take them if they best fit [our programs]. If they fit in with another organization, we will send them over there”.
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life for something bigger than oneself”- Joseph Campbell. That is why we serve Veterans at CCKCSJ. Our mission is greater than one person or cause, but being the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who exemplified it thousands of miles from home.
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