Tewana Martin, Army veteran and program manager for CCS King County’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), assures her clients that too many assets can be a liability in her program. Welcome words—especially to the head of a household facing homelessness in western Washington, where housing is scarce and expensive. They are even more encouraging for those trapped behind barriers like a history of poor credit, employment insecurity, unresolved legal issues, or behavioral and medical challenges.

The CCS SSVF program offers veterans housing support without preconditions, with same-day screenings and enrollment. Following proof of eligibility, case workers work with clients to address the many complications that frequently lie beneath housing insecurity, offering tools like temporary financial support, access to health care, job training, childcare, and other resources clients can use to build household stability and independence. In some cases, these include mediation with landlords and strategies to reconcile with estranged support systems of family and friends.  

In King County, over the last five years, CCS SSVF staffing has grown from one case manager to fourteen, with another two soon to be added. At least half are veterans themselves, including most of the leadership team. Their common language and experience allow them to build trust and motivate clients to disclose their vulnerabilities and hopes for the future. Tewana offers an example: “I’ve got your six!” is privileged military shorthand, meaning “I see you. I’ve got your back. I’m looking out for you. I’ve got you covered.” 

Paradoxically, that bond’s strength can mean holding back on services until the vet is ready to receive them. “We have to think about and honor the wishes of our vets,” Tewana insists. While she might seek out veterans in shelters or encampments to let them know SSVF services are available, they may not be willing to change their current living situations, sometimes because of negative experiences with the VA or other services. Still, they might accept a referral to a CCS program like Counseling, Recovery, and Wellness (CReW) or medical help from another provider, so Tewana remains patient and flexible. In response to a vet saying, “I want to be where I am,” she offers, “We’re here for you when you ready.”

This year, CCS SSVF programs are serving nearly 800 households (individuals and families), including more than 230 children in Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Thurston, and Wahkiakum counties. For more information about the program and the people we serve, visit our website: Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) – Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington (ccsww.org)

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