Tri-City agencies work on housing homeless vets

Tri-City agencies are tackling the issue of homeless veterans from several angles.

The Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition for a year has operated a transition house for single male veterans who have been homeless and is working on housing for homeless student veterans.

Now a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs will allow Catholic Family & Child Service to help veterans' families either get into housing or keep their housing if they're at risk of becoming homeless.

Officials from the two nonprofits gathered Tuesday in Kennewick to celebrate the veterans grant and another windfall to Catholic Child & Family Service that will allow the agency to have two Americorps Vista employees at its Richland office to help develop programs to help low-income families in the region.

Steve Prince, founder of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, said while veteran populations are dropping in most states, the population is increasing in Washington.

"We have so many military bases in our state and they like the weather so much, they keep coming and coming," he said. "This is going to such an important grant. We're going to help so many veterans."

The $107,000 grant will allow Catholic Family & Child Service to help up to 20 veteran families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Benton and Franklin Counties.

Eligible families can get referrals to help with rental assistance, housing, counseling and living skills such as financial management.

Prince said of particular importance will be services that help veterans readjust to life at home after military service.

"We need programs like this to reintegrate veterans," he said.

Services will start Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year. The grant lasts for one year, but the agency can apply to renew it.

Syndee Sauceda Cavazos, maternity and parenting services program manager for Catholic Family in the Tri-Cities, told the Herald that the Vista program will allow the agency to have two people on staff sponsored by Americorps to help find creative ways to expand programs for low-income people.

Americorps will pay the two staff members a stipend for three years, meaning Catholic Family gets the benefit of their work and knowledge without having to take money out of its own budget for their salaries, Cavazos said.

She said the population boom in the Tri-Cities has included some low-income families moving here to look for work, and the agency is excited to be able to help more families.