Phoenix Veterans Story
A Program Success Story in Ending Veteran Homelessness
VA's Flexible Housing Support Brightens Futures of Phoenix-Area Veteran Families | Sept. 27, 2016
For four Veterans residing in sunny Phoenix in late 2015 and early 2016, storm clouds blew in and threatened their hold on life:
- Navy Veteran Kristen Barry, her partner and their three children were forced to live in their car when friends could no longer accommodate them.
- Marine Corps Veteran Justin LaMotte had lost his job, putting him, his fiancée and their son at risk of eviction (they are pictured above).
- For Ame Johnson, a Veteran with a disability connected to her service in the Army, the family car became home for her and her four-year-old daughter.
- Crystal Dunlap, an Army Veteran about to give birth to her first child, needed to move out of transitional housing so she could care for her baby in a safe, permanent home of her own.
Although their circumstances differed, each had a common worry: How will I face homelessness with a family to support?
All four Veterans found their way to the United Methodist Outreach Ministries (UMOM) New Day Centers in Phoenix, the state's largest homeless service provider for families. UMOM receives funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which helps very low-income Veterans—including Veteran families—obtain or maintain stable permanent housing. UMOM's SSVF staff worked closely with each family to understand their unique situations and used SSVF's flexible system of support to develop tailored housing solutions.
For Ms. Barry, getting out of the car and into a home was the top priority, and SSVF staff secured housing for the family within three days. Moreover, through a partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) Warriors to Work program, Ms. Barry got a full-time job, just as SSVF helped her partner find steady work.
UMOM partner Save the Family, another SSVF grantee, paid Mr. LaMotte's outstanding rent bills, preventing the family's eviction. Mr. LaMotte was in school and earning basic housing benefits, but he was determined to find a job to supplement that income. He attended multiple Veteran-focused job fairs and found a job as a commercial account executive with Ricoh USA.
Ms. Johnson and her daughter were placed in temporary shelter by UMOM's Family Housing Hub, and moved into their own apartment just a few weeks later. With SSVF's assistance, Ms. Johnson was able to manage her own medical needs, secure child care for her daughter and enroll in Carrington College to pursue a holistic healing career.
Within a few weeks of joining SSVF, Ms. Dunlap moved from her transitional housing to permanent housing. She was also connected to WWP's employment and supportive services team to navigate her VA disability claim. In January 2016, she delivered a healthy baby boy and two months later, got a job working from home for U-Haul.
Through persistence and collaboration with VA and other partners, UMOM's SSVF team helped each of these four Veterans find a path to a brighter future.
Ms. Barry maintained her job, successfully exited SSVF in July and awaits a decision on her disability claim. Now that they are stably housed and employed, Ms. Barry and her partner are saving money in anticipation of the arrival of their fourth child.
Mr. LaMotte's job is going well too, and he looks forward to advancement opportunities. In addition, he expects to graduate with his bachelor's degree in business with a concentration in Six Sigma process improvement in spring 2017. Thanks to his increased income, his family exited SSVF in July.
Ms. Johnson and her daughter also have kept the dark clouds at bay. She expects to graduate from Carrington with her certificate in holistic healing by the end of 2016, and hopes use her training to help other Veterans heal through holistic treatments.
Last but not least, Ms. Dunlap decided in July to move to North Carolina to be closer to family. She has maintained employment and stays in touch with UMOM's SSVF staff. In a recent email, she reported that her disability claim had been approved, and that she hopes to buy a home of her own soon.