LORAIN — Homeless female veterans in Lorain County may have a place to stay as they get back on their feet, as the Valor Home in Lorain moves forward on its latest project.
Matt Slater, director of veteran services for Family and Community Services Inc., which manages Valor Home, said it is looking to add permanent housing for female veterans by rehabilitating three separate properties in Lorain.
“Homeless female vets are the fastest-growing homeless population,” he said. “They’ve quadrupled from 2 percent of the homeless vet population to 8 percent in the last couple years. Last year we had about 25 requests from female vets to serve them.”
A property on G Street will be the first to be rehabbed and will be a three-bed unit funded through a grant from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, with Ford United Auto Workers Local 2000 helping with renovations. The other two properties are closer to Valor Home’s men’s housing, with one property at 204 W. 21st St. and the other at 2100 Reid Ave. These two properties together will provide another 12 beds, allowing the organization to provide for 15 women in total. The organization is applying for a grant program through Federal Home Loan Bank, working with Huntington Bank, to fund the rehabilitation on those two larger properties.
“(We) were looking for some support from City Council which will help get us some additional scoring on this grant application,” Slater said of the properties on West 21st Street and Reid Avenue. At Monday night’s Lorain City Council meeting, Council approved a waiver for $500 in permit fees and supporting Valor Home’s imitative.
“There’s all this different scoring criteria in the Federal Home Loan Bank application, so if the city … is willing to give that to you, it gives you an additional point,” Slater explained. “The process with this is literally if we didn’t get that point that potentially could mean that we didn’t get funding, so any additional point like that, if we can get, just makes a much stronger application. And the city of Lorain and the county have been extremely supportive ever since we began serving vets in 2010. They’ve been really good to us.”
He said the organization will know in November if they received the funding.
He said the units will be handicapped accessible, as all three buildings are single-story, with a couple units set aside to have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and other features for disabled female veterans. Residents will pay rent, but the organization plans to work with the housing authority to have the units approved for Section 8 or other subsidy options, so as to not burden residents with high rent that could cause them to become homeless again. Casework will be on site, while other programs will be available at Valor Home’s main building.
Slater said what makes serving female veterans different from their male counterparts is women often have children who would need to stay with them, and some women have experienced sexual trauma while in the military.
“(Unfortunately), we as a country haven’t done a great job in developing outreach to homeless female vets nationally. We still don’t exactly know what quality issues and how they differ from male vets, but we’re starting to do a better job,” he said. “We’re starting to develop (Veterans Affairs) clinics specifically for female vets and developing female veteran programming, which is good. We (need) to reach out to them and develop those supports, whether it’s due to the fact that they have children and need help with child care, or they need counseling due to experience of (military sexual trauma).”
In order to fund the project, Slater said Valor Home will need community support, as the grants don’t cover everything. He said they will be doing an adopt-a-room where individuals and organizations like American Legion or AMVETS posts can pay a currently unspecified amount and have the naming right and a plaque placed outside it. Those interested can email Slater at firstname.lastname@example.org or Valor Home’s program manager Sandra Wright at email@example.com.
“I think it’s important in every county that we serve our female vets,” Slater said. “(In) Lorain County, we have a local advisory committee that was very passionate about this, that we be able to serve both men and women. I think every community should be looking to develop more programming that targets all those in need, especially our female vets. They make up 20 percent of the military, so my guess is we’ll see more and more that are in need of assistance, so I think it’s great that we are in front of the curve developing this housing.”