In its fourth year, the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) focused on filling service gaps in innovative ways, fine tuning programs disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and maximizing the levy’s impact by fostering partnership and coordination among providers. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions continued to present challenges for VSHSL partners. Some pivoted services to support vaccination efforts, collaborating with each other and other human services organizations to help vaccinate King County’s most vulnerable people. In late 2021, as it became safe to do so, increasing in-person services became a priority. Throughout the year VSHSL providers creatively reinvented programs and services to best serve King County residents most in need despite the challenges.
Looking ahead, the VSHSL will work toward developing the best combination of in-person, hybrid and virtual programming, identifying and addressing unmet needs, and creating a more equitable King County where every person can thrive.
In 2021, the VSHSL deployed housing stability funding to increase King County’s affordable housing supply, assist the homeless crisis response system, and address the root causes of homelessness. This includes providing supportive transitional housing, increasing the number of affordable permanent housing units in the county, enabling King County residents to avoid foreclosure and eviction, and supporting programs that help older adults age in place. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic uncertainty continued to amplify King County’s housing challenges. Pandemic-related foreclosure and eviction moratoriums also ended. VSHSL partners used their expertise, community connections and VSHSL funding to help residents navigate these uncertainties.
Regaining Stability Helps a Veteran and Her Family Continue to Thrive
Mona, an Airforce Veteran, lives in an apartment in the city of Auburn with five of her dependent and adult children. Mona is a disabled veteran who receives a Service-Connected Disability and lives on a fixed income. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, several of Mona’s adult children lost employment, dramatically reducing the household income. The unexpected decrease in income led to a significant balance of past due rent causing Mona and her children to face eviction. In October 2021, Mona visited the King County Veterans Program (KCVP) Tukwila office, seeking out services from KCVP for the first time. Upon arrival Mona met with one of KCVP’s Social Service Professionals to determine how resources could be leveraged to stabilize the household. Read the rest of Mona’s story.
The VSHSL’s Financial Stability strategies identify roadblocks to financial well-being and give King County residents the tools to achieve financial independence and resilience, through supportive and culturally sensitive programs. For some job training or additional education is needed to find stable employment. Others require access to affordable childcare to ensure job and education opportunities are not lost. Some need emergency aid to act as a bridge so temporary issues do not lead to permanent financial setbacks. However, securing job training, education, and emergency aid among other supports can be difficult. The VSHSL makes pathways to stable careers, educational achievement, and economic stability possible through its Financial Stability strategies.
Financial Coaching Transformed an Individual’s Independence, Financial Resilience, and Life Opportunities
Tom, a resident of Kent, experiences autism, vision, and mobility impairments. Tom’s wife handled all the household’s financial matters and was the source of their steady monthly income. After she suddenly passed away without a will or directions about her final wishes, Tom was left to figure out the household finances on his own. Read the rest of Tom’s story.
The VSHSL’s Healthy Living strategies aim to fortify the bodies and minds of King County residents using evidence-based programming, preventative care, and tailored supports. In 2021 the VSHSL also implemented a previously unfunded strategy to address overall community well-being through community-led gun violence prevention programming.
Overcoming Technology Barriers to Improve Senior Health and Well-Being
Ava, a Telehealth Assistant with International Community Health Services (ICHS), works with participants of ICHS’ virtual health promotion classes to decrease participation barriers. The in-person and virtual Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance classes, funded by the VSHSL are a way for ICHS’ participants, primarily of Asian descent, to improve muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility. Read the rest of the story.
Meaningful social connection with others is a core ingredient of human wellbeing. However, social isolation and loneliness are common experiences for many in our society, attributable to a complex range of social and economic factors. The VSHSL’s Social Engagement strategies work toward strengthening each participant’s sense of belonging by identifying and combating social isolation and creating opportunities to connect. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic started to erode community connections, many members of the VSHSL’s priority populations were susceptible to social isolation. Veterans must learn to reintegrate into civilian society. Retired seniors may feel cut-off from community once they leave the workforce. Resilient communities face unique barriers to social connection as well. Barriers to connection may be caused by a difference in language or culture. Others may find it difficult to engage after facing a traumatic experience or a lifetime of structural oppression. Mobility challenges and disabilities can also create physical and emotional hurdles. The VSHSL is investing in a human-centered approach to help strengthen ties to the community and make programming available to people that meets them where they are.
A Safe Place to Land: Setting Women up for Success after Incarceration
Kristen became the first resident of the Arms Around You (AAY) house, a supportive program for women coming home after incarceration. Kristin arrived at the AAY house with many employment, housing, physical health, and mental health goals. As is true for many people who have experienced incarceration, Kristen came to AAY still grappling with trauma. In her first few months with AAY, Kristen had issues with hoarding food. It took her a while to trust that AAY would support her and make sure she had enough to eat. Read the rest of Kristen’s story.
Service System Access and Improvement
Service System Access and Improvement programs put human service resources within better reach of King County residents. Programs detail how the VSHSL is working to identify system barriers and improve access to the rich body of supportive services available in King County.
Stability and Self-determination Give a Mom and Her Children a New Start
Danica, a domestic violence survivor endured many years of abuse. Over the years, she suffered physical injuries, back problems, knee issues, severe headaches, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and the ongoing compounded trauma resulting from the myriad impacts of the abuse in all its forms. Read the rest of Danica’s story.
Dive deeper into the data
In 2021, the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy served King County’s Veterans, servicemembers and their families; seniors and their caregivers; and resilient communities. VSHSL’s funded programs and services are delivering impact and making a difference in the lives of King County residents.