United Way’s Priority Veteran testifies to Congress about serving vets

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united way priority veteran congress
United Way’s Lula Skowronek spoke to Congress about Priority Veteran. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

COVID-19 left a large path of destruction in its wake, especially for US veterans across the country and in Alabama. Recently, United Way’s Priority Veteran program testified to the US House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs about the best ways to support our vets.

Testifying to Congress

united way priority veteran congress testimony
Lula Skowronek speaks to the US House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs about Priority Veteran. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Way’s veteran-focused program, Priority Veteran, testified to the US House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently about the hardships homeless US veterans have faced, particularly during the pandemic.

The program’s goal during this extremely difficult time was to prevent any Alabama veteran from becoming or remaining homeless, through action and assistance.

“Homeless Veterans were at high risk for COVID-19. The shelters our clients previously relied on were no longer safe. In response, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) expanded Priority Veteran’s ability to place veterans in hotels as an emergency housing option while awaiting permanent housing.

Our program had several clients in hotels with no income, no transportation, and therefore no access to food. Through expanded SSVF guidance and a creative partnership with a local catering company, Priority Veteran provided 1,370 meals to veterans in hotels.”

Lula Skowronek, program director, Priority Veteran in her address to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

About Priority Veteran

Priority Veteran is a program of United Way of Central Alabama, which began in 2013 through a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant. In total, the program has served over 3,500 veterans in Central Alabama, from case management to financial assistance. Priority Veteran focuses on supporting local veterans who are facing or currently experiencing homelessness.

See how Priority Veteran helped local vets during COVID by the numbers:

  • 170 veteran families placed in hotels since March 2020
  • 1,370 meals provided to veterans in hotels
  • 50,000 COVID vaccines provided through the Priority Veteran and United Way vaccine clinic

The program serves Central Alabama vets in many ways, and not just during a global pandemic. Here’s just a few of those methods:

  • Create a Housing Stability Plan
  • Access medical or mental health services
  • Enroll for veteran’s benefits
  • Search for jobs
  • Receive financial assistance

While putting veterans in hotels seems like a temporary fix, it can often be a huge help in gaining permanent housing later.

“‘Charlie’ is an example of a challenging, but ultimately successful case. He served in the Army in 1985 for only a few months and lived on the streets for two years before receiving help because he assumed he did not qualify for any Veterans programs.

Previously, Charlie would not stay in shelters due to his anxiety, but he did feel comfortable in a hotel room. Charlie stayed in a hotel for 17 weeks while we worked to secure an apartment. Without that extended hotel stay, it is unlikely Charlie would be stably housed today.”

Lula Skowronek, program director, Priority Veteran

Want to join the cause?

pat united way volunteering
Bham Now’s Pat Byington became a member of the United Way Volunteer Allocation Team. Photo via Bham Now

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support Priority Veteran and other United Way programs, check it out here.

Priority Veteran isn’t the only United Way program to help Central Alabama during COVID. Learn more about how United Way of Central Alabama has supported our region throughout the pandemic.

Learn more about United Way of Central Alabama:

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Claire Hancock
Articles: 98