Freedom has an extraordinary high price. One
never owns it outright. The title is never free and clear. The downpayment is
made with the blood of those that have died fighting for it. The balance is an
eternal debt amortized over a lifetime of the veterans who pay with their hearts
and souls each and every day.
Robert W. Bryce, President
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 820
Believing that the community owes a debt of gratitude to its military veterans for sacrifices made in defending the nation in past, present and future conflicts, the mission of Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc., is to establish a centrally accessible, veteran-friendly outreach center. This center will achieve its mission, by providing a one-stop venue to identify veterans in need and provide resources directed to supporting and improving the living conditions of the veteran population of Central and Eastern Oregon. Through active fund-raising, community education, and public support, COVO and the Veterans Outreach Center, will serve to advocate on behalf of all military veterans in mitigating the often permanent, yet invisible, scars of having gone to war.
SCOPE OF PURPOSE
The services and resources provided by the Central Oregon Veterans Outreach Center, will include, but are not limited to initial veteran intake assessment; assisting in the VA benefit and claims process; identifying physical, mental, emotional, and social health issues and referring accordingly; emergency and transitional shelter and sustenance; job training and employment services; and crisis intervention.
THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR HOMELESS VETERANS "PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS" AND ITS APPLICATION FOR A PLAN FOR CENTRAL AND EASTERN OREGON
On February 11, 2004, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans released their, "Plan to End Homelessness Among Veterans." According to the Plan, NCHV found that, "[A]ll levels and branches of the public sector are developing [and implementing] plans to end homelessness among residents of their geopolitical jurisdictions." The NCHV Plan, however, "is intended to contribute a veteran perspective to these planning and implementation efforts." As they explained, "To the extent that our recommendations mirror those already articulated by others, we are simply adding a veteran voice to the apparent consensus." COVO intends to be that "veterans voice" in Central and Eastern Oregon and will focus on the specific problems being encountered by veterans in need within that geographical area.
In this regard, the NCHV Plan offers some issue-specific considerations and proposals for homeless veterans. NCHV notes, for instance, that "[t]he vast majority [of homeless veterans] are single. [Forty-five] percent have a mental illness [and][Fifty] percent have an addiction." More importantly, NCHV reported that, "Forty-seven percent of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era. More than sixty-seven percent served our nation for at least three years and thirty-three percent were stationed in a war zone."
Thus, it is not surprising that current data shows that, "[A] large number of at-risk veterans live with post traumatic stress disorder and addictions acquired or exacerbated by their military service." Other factors that the NCHV reported for veterans at high risk of homelessness include extremely low or no income, dismal living conditions and lack of access to health care. The NCHV Plan concluded that, "The problems [of homeless and at-risk] veterans are directly traceable to their experience in military service or to their return to civilian society without appropriate transitional supports."
Therefore, it doesnâ€™t matter if the VA has a primary care clinic in Bend if a homeless or poor veteran in Lake County has no transportation to get from Paisley to the Bend Clinic, a distance of some 181 miles. Even if a homeless veteran in Paisley wanted to go to the clinic in Klamath Falls, he or she would have to travel 140 miles. During the winter months in Central and Eastern Oregon, travel options are even more restricted. These are the only VA outpatient clinics in Central and Eastern Oregon and the VA has no outreach centers, emergency shelter or transitional housing east of the Cascade Mountains.
Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc., proposes to plan, fund, implement and operate a full-service outreach program to address the needs of homeless and poor veterans within the eighteen counties that are east of the Cascade Mountains. The programâ€™s primary offices and housing sites will be located in Deschutes County, hopefully in or close to the City of Bend. This location would provide COVO clients with easy access to public transportation, the Bend VA Clinic, public and private social service agencies, transportation to the Portland and Vancouver VA Medical Centers, shopping areas, Central Oregon Community College and local businesses with potential for supplying employment to qualified homeless or low income veterans.
The COVO program will be funded with a mix of funds from private individuals and businesses, private and public charitable foundations and trusts, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state and local agencies with funds for such services as COVO proposes to provide. It is hoped that the COVOâ€™s programs will be staffed primarily by veterans who volunteer, and secondarily by paid, skilled, non-veteran paraprofessionals, publicly funded interns and work-study students. COVOâ€™s programs will be governed and operated by our nonprofit corporation, organized pursuant to applicable federal and Oregon statutes and regulations. All financial matters will be handled by a paid, outside fiscal agent.
COVO hopes to find suitable properties upon which to locate its various shelter and housing programs. Such properties would include existing or easily-made space for transitional and emergency shelter beds, sanitary and up-to-code facilities for bathing, food preparation and laundry services. The properties might include structures easily adaptable for these purposes, or it might be a property that can be renovated for COVO's specific needs.
Given the estimated number of homeless veterans in Central and Eastern Oregon in a typical year, COVO wants to provide at least twenty-four permanent supportive housing, transitional and emergency shelter beds located in the Bend/Redmond area.
COVO has made it a high priority to establish a full time outreach program to inform homeless, at-risk and low income veterans of benefits and assistance to which they might be entitled.
Additionally, those homeless and low income
veterans who are committed to seeking treatment for mental health and substance
abuse problems would also receive priority consideration for a bed at a COVO
location. Finally, for those chronically homeless veterans with long-term mental
health and substance abuse problems, or who have physical disabilities, COVO
will provide permanent supportive housing beds for a minimum of two years and
until such time as the veteran is capable of living on his or her own. COVO's
members and all veterans service organizations recognize that treating and
resolving these serious problems must be accomplished prior to thinking about
employment, training or education issues.