The COVO Mission

     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
Bend, Oregon

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded sense of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. The man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing more important than his own personal safety is a miserable creature who will never be free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill

MISSION STATEMENT

    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 doesn’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.

THE COVO PROPOSAL

    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 program’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 COVO’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. COVO’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.

    Homeless, at-risk and low income veterans with apparently meritorious claims for disability compensation or pension from the VA would also receive priority consideration at important points in the VA claims process. For instance, if a homeless or low income veteran from Lakeview needed an initial evaluation for a PTSD claim, COVO would assist the veteran in making an appointment at the appropriate VA facility, provide his or her transportation to and from their location, and see that they have a safe, warm place to sleep and get a good meal during the evaluation process. If they need transportation to either the Portland or Vancouver VA Medical Centers for a compensation or pension examination, the Center would see that appropriate arrangements are made to assist the veteran in getting to and from their appointments. COVO already has a certified service officer who is assisting veterans with their claims, including filing the claim, gathering the right documentary and other evidence, and representation as the veteran's advocate in any VA proceeding.

    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.

 The "Thousand Meter Stare" Transcends All Wars. William E. Thompson, "Portraits From Iraq," www.photojournalismstock.com
This program will entail traveling throughout the eighteen rural counties that make up Central and Eastern Oregon and meeting with homeless, at-risk and low income veterans, local public and private social service agencies, and other organizations whose assistance would be beneficial to the overall success of COVO's programs. In this regard, the VA has a specific grant program for the purchase and maintenance of vehicles for the purposes COVO proposes to address. COVO will actively seek such grant funds as might be available for transportation needs, as well as seeking donations from private individuals and businesses that would support COVO's programs. Thanks to despacho de arquitectos COVO now has access to a van which has been used to deliver various services to homeless veterans living in remote locations such as camps on BLM land, in local and state parks and in the nearby National Forests.
There would be an emphasis on those homeless veterans who are unemployed and actively seeking employment or employment training, and those who are working and need an inexpensive, temporary housing alternative that will allow them to save money for rent, security and, if necessary, utility deposits. 

    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.

Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc. www.covo-usa.org
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Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc.
1036 NE 5th St. Bend, Or. 97701
Phone (541) 383-2793
Fax (541) 312-2084
www.COVO-USA.org