In 2022, the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) continued to build on previous investments and delivered programming to help people transition to affordable housing, get job training, find employment, access emergency financial assistance, connect with domestic violence advocacy, receive behavioral health treatment, and access other resources and services. The VSHSL has reached across a broad range of King County communities and has provided a foundation of support that is establishing or improving access to affordable housing, senior centers, counseling and mental health supports, programming for survivors of gender-based violence, and human services workforce stabilization.
The nonprofit sector continued to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a significant impact on the human services workforce and program outcomes. At the same time, communities expressed an increased need for services. The 250-plus VSHSL partner organizations increased accessibility by growing the stock of affordable housing through two new VSHSL-funded housing developments, funding senior centers across all nine King County council districts, offering counseling and nearly $2 million in financial assistance to the region’s veterans, and broadening the county’s gender-based violence supports through a domestic violence helpline and other targeted services.
Meet the faces behind VSHSL’s impact
In 2022, the VSHSL provided services to more than 72,500 people. Meet a few of King County’s residents who have been impacted by the VSHSL’s programs and services. These are their stories:
Putting down roots: connections to services help a veteran build a new home in King County
Rich,* a veteran, recently relocated to King County from Alabama. While reaching out to veterans at the VA hospital, Sam,* from the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs (WDVA) met Rich. During his move to King County, Rich had his car, wallet and most of his possessions stolen, forcing him to start from scratch on his arrival.
The WDVA’s Homeless Veterans Program (HVP) assists veterans who are experiencing homelessness in King County. The program works with veterans to build their overall stability, making connections to other providers and resources such as referrals to shelter and housing, mental health services, and support such as bus fare, food cards and Goodwill vouchers. The program also helps veterans gather documents they may need in order to explore resources that facilitate permanent housing.
WDVA helped Rich get a new ID, start a search for employment and connected him to the King County Veterans Program (KCVP) Collaborative Case Management Program, a first in the nation program to help veterans experiencing homelessness connect to safe and stable housing. The program combines the power of the VA, their federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, the expertise of the KCVP social services staff, and housing navigation coordinated through the King County Housing Authority to increase utilization of federal housing vouchers to house more local veterans in King County.
Rich connected with KCVP and was assigned a social service professional (SSP) to guide him on his journey to stability. Together, Rich and his KCVP SSP attained a VASH voucher and found an apartment for Rich to move into. During this time, Rich gave back to other veterans by helping those in need around him. Since moving into his new apartment, Rich found a job and started work. He has returned to WDVA’s offices many times to share his gratitude. Their support and connections to KCVP helped Rich advocate for himself and create a new stable home in King County.
Legal assistance helps an immigrant family fight a benefits overpayment case and move into a new home
Joseph* and his wife and children, residents of South King County, are immigrants. Since moving to the United States the family has experienced racism and acts of vandalism against their home. Joseph’s daughter had fear and anxiety from the experience. Joseph and his young adult children worked to support the family and hoped to move away from the situation to a new apartment. During this difficult time, layered with additional challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Joseph reached out to Washington State for assistance and food benefits.
One year after receiving food benefits and COVID-19 Emergency support Joseph received a letter from Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) saying that the family was ineligible for the benefits they received and now owed the state $12,000. After submitting an appeal and requesting a hearing, a DSHS hearing representative recommended Joseph contact Solid Ground’s Benefits Legal Assistance program for assistance with the appeal process.
Solid Ground provides direct legal representation to adults and families whose state benefits have been denied, reduced, terminated, or have been assessed for overpayment of benefits. Through direct client assistance, community-based outreach, benefits navigation, and systems advocacy, Solid Ground supports vulnerable communities in accessing and leveraging their benefits to increase economic security and household stability.
DSHS alleged that Joseph did not provide documentation to verify household composition and was over the income limit for the program, therefore was ineligible for the entire amount of benefits received for the year and would have to repay $12,000. The overpayment was made up of two separate charges, one for $4,000 for Basic Food benefits and another one for $8,000 for COVID-19 Emergency Supplements.
A Solid Ground attorney met with Joseph and helped the family gather financial documents (such as tax returns and pay stubs) to prove the family income was within program limits. Solid Ground also worked with Joseph’s daughter to provide a statement explaining where she lived, she had temporarily moved in with older siblings to help alleviate her anxiety.
After negotiations with the DSHS hearing representative, the Solid Ground attorney was able to secure a modification of the overpayment, reducing it to $0.
Solid Ground provided legal assistance that otherwise may have been out of reach. The assistance saved the family from a debt that would have severely inhibited their ability to thrive. Joseph and his family have now moved into a new apartment and are focusing on a stable future where all of the family members feel safe and secure.
Multi-lingual balance class improves fall prevention, physical activity and overall health in seniors
Muoi loves walking outdoors for exercise and participating in senior activities in the community but recently her activity has been limited by her health. Despite her limitations she always motivates herself to get up and move around and joined a Matter of Balance class to work on her physical balance and overall health.
Neighborhood House’s Matter of Balance class is a program designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. The class includes fall prevention, exercise, and is held in a support group model to support older adults with physical activity education, aging education, and depression care.
Muoi attended Matter of Balance at the Seattle Housing Authority, which was also offered to seniors residing at the Renton Housing Authority and other King County Housing Authority locations throughout South King County. Matter of Balance was held in Muoi’s primary language, Vietnamese, helping her to feel comfortable asking questions and be open to learning. Attending the class in Vietnamese empowered and encouraged Muoi to be more engaged in the sessions and share her experiences with the class.
The Matter of Balance class helped Muoi continue to find enjoyment in exercise, improve mobility, understand the benefits of fall prevention, and increase her overall knowledge of exercise and aging. Muoi is now able to attend Neighborhood House’s teatime and other senior activities when her feet and knees are feeling better.
Overcoming persecution, legal support helps a youth stay safely in King County
Julieta,* a youth from El Salvador, came to Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) fearing persecution should she return to her native El Salvador.
Through the King County Expanded Legal Defense Network (ELDN), KIND provides free legal representation in removal proceedings to unaccompanied immigrant children living in King County. This includes applying for various forms of immigration relief and representing children before Immigration Court and/or Washington state courts. KIND’s clients are under the age of 18 at time of screening and are either in or face imminent threat of undergoing removal proceedings.
KIND filed Julieta’s asylum application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the basis that Julieta feared persecution because of her older brother’s gang recruitment. Following an interview by the USCIS Asylum Office, Julieta’s application for asylum was referred to an Immigration Court and a hearing was scheduled for the spring of 2022.
Julieta’s KIND attorney continued discussions with Julieta to learn more about her experiences in her native El Salvador. After developing a trusting relationship, Julieta revealed she had also been targeted because of her religion as well as her brother’s gang recruitment.
Julieta was granted asylum in Immigration Court. KIND’s support and advocacy, along with Julieta’s bravery in sharing her story, resulted in her being able to safely remain in the United States and thrive in her new home, King County.
A service hub for individuals with disabilities connects a veteran and his service dog to the tools they need to thrive
Jerry,* a veteran, and his service dog were new to Washington state. They moved from Idaho to King County after the assisted living facility that he had lived in for over 10 years closed due to COVID-19-related problems and staffing shortages.
Jerry connected with The Alliance for People with disABILITIES’ Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) for assistance finding employment, connecting to resources to get an education, and care for his service dog. DEC supports people with disabilities in living as independently as they choose by providing individualized system navigation services to connect individuals to housing, employment and other community-based resources.
DEC helped Jerry, who was living in Cascade Hall Shelter, become housed through Section 8 housing; connected him to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) for employment placement assistance; helped him receive free pet food from Auburn Food Bank and found Jerry support to attend college through the TRIO Program at Green River Community College.
Jerry is now on a path to success. He is employed part-time at William J Wood Veterans House as a receptionist and scheduler, is attending Green River Community College full-time and has received financial assistance for vet care for his service dog. DEC’s connections to community resources and support helped Jerry gain the tools he needed to maintain his newfound independence and to build a stable, new home in King County.
*Stock photos and pseudonyms used to protect client privacy.