United Way’s Priority Veteran program expands its services thanks to additional VA funding

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Lula Skowronek, Director of Priority Veteran. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

As a result of the drastic national economic downturn, Central Alabama’s veterans and their families need our help now more than ever.

In April, United Way’s Priority Veteran program received $1.3 million from the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The additional funding will help ramp up the program’s services for eligible, low-income veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Priority Veteran’s Portfolio of Services

Since 2013, Priority Veteran has assisted over 720 homeless veterans or veterans at-risk of becoming homeless, in the Birmingham metro area.

The program provides a wide range of services including:

  • Emergency housing assistance and hotel stays
  • Household goods
  • Security deposits, rent and utility assistance and food
  • Transportation assistance

Protecting Veterans During the Pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, Priority Veteran services are keeping veterans safe. 

Many local shelters have limited availability and are not safe for older veterans or those with a chronic health condition. Their health is at-risk in a congregate setting. Veterans in need of emergency housing assistance can contact Priority Veteran.

So far, during the coronavirus outbreak, Priority Veteran has been able to place 27 low-income veteran families across the state, who would have otherwise been in a shelter or on the street, into hotels. This effort keeps the veteran safe from exposure to the virus and helps prevent the shelters from becoming overwhelmed.

More Than a Place to Stay

Priority Veteran staff are also available to assist with general needs. 

These include: 

  • Creating a housing stability plan 
  • Accessing medical or mental health services
  • Enrolling in veterans’ benefits
  • Job search assistance 
  • Financial coaching, and 
  • Other services to keep veterans off the streets

 Some additional  examples: 

Protecting veterans from the virus, especially those whose health is at higher risk due to their age or medical history, is a priority.  For example, Priority Veteran was able to place one veteran in housing near UAB so he could easily get to his dialysis appointments.  

During the crisis, Priority Veteran has also expanded its ability to assist low-income veterans with rent payments.

The program has also partnered with Nourish Kitchens to provide meals to veterans who do not have access to food during this time.

Priority Veteran Director Lula Skowronek said, “We are very glad that we can continue to serve veterans who are facing homelessness during this pandemic. How we operate has changed, but Priority Veteran is still open, and we want to make sure the most vulnerable veterans have a safe place to stay.”

Know a Veteran Who Needs Help?

If you or someone you know is a veteran who is homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless, please call 866-460-3827 today to be screened for eligibility. Priority Veteran’s goal is to connect vulnerable veterans to housing and financial services as quickly as possible. For more information, visit www.priorityveteran.org.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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