Mission of area nonprofit is to help homeless vets become part of society again
VANCOUVER — Nationally, and here in Clark County, many veterans find themselves homeless and in dire straits, even after sacrificing a great deal for their country.
More than 40,000 veterans are homeless each day in the United States, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and nine percent of them are women.
Shelters can often be unsafe places for homeless women, especially if they have children. Belongings can be stolen, and help may be difficult to come by for the issues that often come with homelessness.
America for Veterans Foundation (AFVF) in Vancouver has a plan underway to offer a new solution for homeless female veterans — Veterans Village.
Eighteen micro-homes, a meeting hall and most importantly single occupancy dorm-style living spaces, will be the design of the village. Each resident will have privacy and the ability to lock up their belongings.
“This particular village is going to be a model for future villages,” said Ron Fryer, the founding patron of AFVF and owner of the land where the village will soon be located. “Our next project, we hope to have enough acreage to put in a section for single men, a section for single women and section for families.”
Ron and his wife Rosemary took on the project with their son a little over a year ago, and now, along with their board members, are thinking of new and creative ways to partner with area businesses and organizations to fund construction.
They currently have been awarded a grant of more than $500,000 from the city of Vancouver, which will be released after they match it with their own funds and donations. The value of the property, which is located off Northeast St. James Road in Vancouver, is also valued at over half a million dollars.
“I think this is going to be a great benefit in that it can be replicated,” said Rosemary Fryer, co-founding patron for AFVF and Ron’s wife. “And it won’t cost as much as some of these other apartment complexes or barrack-style shelters. It will cost less, to house people and get them to transition back into society.”
Structurally insulated panels will be the building blocks of the micro-homes in Veterans Village, keeping spending down, and allowing for funding to flow into other areas of need.
“That’s what we want, a cost effective solution that works,” Rosemary said.
There will be no time limits to the stay of each resident, but each must be active in a program designed for them; either to recover, assist or help them find work and a home.
The facility will have 24-hour security and a office staffed with a counselor able to assist residents with their program and future goals. Each unit will also have its own personal address, thus allowing residents to accept mail and information needed to acquire assistance or obtain a job.
“There’s a very strong need to house veterans,” said Denise Bender, a county service officer with the Vancouver Veterans Assistance Center and a coordinating counselor for Veterans Village. “The goals are to help, myself, to help get the female veterans housed, and help reintegrate them into functioning society.”
The Veterans Administration of Washington and Partners in Careers, will work together to interview candidates for the village, and decide who will benefit the most from the environment.
In-kind donations from local businesses and organizations are the big focus for the Veterans Village team right now, with Artisan Tiny Homes, Costco, The Home Depot, Partners in Careers, and many more already sponsoring the project.
“I’m a veteran myself, and I have bonded with many veterans,” Ron said. “And I understand a lot of the issues that people coming home, especially from warzones, go through. I believe veterans are heroes.”
For more information on Veterans Village and AFVF, visit their website or contact Ron Fryer at firstname.lastname@example.org.