'Within our grasp:' King County needs your help to end veteran homelessness

When King County set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, workers started to compile a list.

On the list were names of homeless veterans who were living on our streets – 1,120 names in total.

Since Jan. 1, 2015, 717 of those veterans have been placed into stable housing thanks, in part, to the county’s efforts. Still, 403 remain without a place to live as the end of the year quickly approaches.

“To reach our goal by the end of the year that no veteran be homeless, we must find housing for the last among them, including 310 who have the ticket to ending homelessness in their hands today: a rental voucher,” King County Executive Dow Constantine wrote in an email to employees. “We need landlords who value what our veterans have contributed and who will accept that voucher.”

The county is reaching out to landlords as part of its Welcome OneHome campaign, hoping to expand housing options for those who served our country.

The county has urged landlords to be part of the initiative, which could include lowering rent or loosening rental requirements to help low-income veterans who may have trouble meeting credit or income thresholds.

“It’s within our grasp if we can just get more landlords to work with us in getting veterans and their families housed,” said Patricia Lemus, manager of the King County Veterans Program.

The program serves roughly 2,500 veterans a year county-wide, 33% of whom are homeless. Roughly 60% are in need of employment.

“Our main focus is to get them to self-reliance,” Lemus said.

Of the county’s homeless veterans, the vast majority are of the Vietnam-era, followed by those who served in the Gulf War. Roughly 20 to 25 percent are veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, Lemus said.

If you are a landlord and can offer a homeless veteran a place to live, call the Welcome OneHome campaign at 206-336-4616 or visit onehomekc.org. If you are a veteran in need of services, please call 877-904-8387.