We all agree that one homeless veteran, or working veteran who is unable to achieve housing security, is one too many. That is why WDVA is working with service providers like the Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center and WestCare to increase the availability of supportive housing programs for veterans at the Soldiers Home. Attached are two documents that describe the programs each group is working to establish. I invite you to read these and if you have questions about the individual programs, please reach out to the point of contact for that program. If you have questions about WDVA's role in the programs, please let our Communications Director, Heidi Audette, know so we can route your question to the right person.
The Soldiers Home was established in 1891 to provide housing for homeless Civil War Veterans. Since that time, we have continued to serve veterans on our campus through the Federal VA's Domiciliary Program that provides funding for programs that serve homeless or economically disadvantaged veterans. Currently this program operates in Roosevelt Barracks.
With the scarcity of affordable independent housing or supportive transitional housing, we've explored options for putting our vacant rooms and buildings to use to serve our veterans. However, the lack of funding available at the federal or state level for either capital investments or operational dollars for new programs kept us from moving forward. For several years, our Domiciliary Program has been in a holding pattern as we wait for the Federal VA to release rules on the operation of this program. If those rules stay in their current form, it will make continuing to operate a domiciliary program in Roosevelt financially unsustainable. This is why we looked to our partners in the community.
In 2014, we entered into a lease with the WestCare Foundation to renovate Betsy Ross Hall and then operate a housing program for women veterans. If you were able to attend the Open House held in November 2016, you saw firsthand the transformation of that building into a beautiful home for women veterans! We followed-up with an email to the Soldiers Home staff on March 15 that had information on the Pierce County Executive's plan to provide $250,000 in operational dollars to fund the program, and a potential for $500,000 in matching capital for a program for male veterans in Roosevelt. We don't have any new information on the Roosevelt Program, but again, are interested in making sure any available rooms are used to serve veterans who need them. We have many considerations on WDVA's part as we have 18 domiciliary residents and several staff in the building. We committed to grandfather our residents in this program and will honor this commitment.
The Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center has been working on a dream that is becoming reality for a Veterans Village on several acres in the area behind the picnic structure by the Betsy Ross building. The Veterans Village would include 30 tiny homes along with a community building. The homes will include a living/sleeping area, toilet and sink. Kitchen and shower facilities would be located in the community building and provide that sense of camaraderie and community for veterans living in the houses.
Please know that any provider operating a program to serve veterans on the Soldiers Home Campus will be required to follow the same background check procedures we use for our own programs. In addition, the campus will remain a drug and alcohol free campus regardless of what entity operates the programs.
As plans move forward, we will continue to provide you with updates and information.
Lourdes E. Alvarado Ramos (Alfie)
WA Department of Veterans Affairs