Housing, treatment and support services have increased for veterans and their families, as well as other vulnerable households in King County.
That's the news from the 2007 Veterans and Human Services Levy Annual report released last week.
"The most important thing to know is how wonderful the voters are in King County," said Community Services Division Director Linda Peterson. "They passed this levy with a 58 percent approval rating."
At a time when the federal government has cut services to war veterans, including housing and mental health assistance, the new levy is providing more than $13 million to local vets as well as low-income families with children.
The levy focuses on several priority areas, including enhancing services for veterans and their families; ending homelessness through outreach, prevention, permanent supportive housing and employment; increasing access to behavioral health; and strengthening families at risk.
The spending report shows progress on implementing new programs and services in each priority area, as well as success in implementing a comprehensive evaluation tool to measure success.
The report said levy funding supported homeless prevention services as well as capital funding of about $7 million in 2007 for the creation of housing for veterans, their families and other low-income households countywide.
The county also, through an expanded contract with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, increased post traumatic stress disorder counseling by 3,000 hours and reserved an additional 28 shelter beds for veterans.
The report shows that the Veterans Incarcerated Project expanded in 2007 to reach and serve veterans in regional jails, connecting them to community services and housing that resulted in 14,000 fewer jail bed days and saving taxpayers about $1.6 million.
The cash is coming from voter approval of a ballot measure passed in November 2005 that generates funds for six years, dedicated to veterans and their families as well as regional health and human services, including housing, homelessness prevention, treatment services, and employment assistance.
"Nationally, statistics show that 40 percent of the single adult homeless are veterans," Peterson said. She said one of the first projects that have been completed with money from the levy is a housing project for the homeless, which sets aside 15 units specifically for veterans.
The money has been spent to increase services and outreach for veterans, such as new housing designated for retired veterans, and more service offices around the county, especially in the South End.
Peterson said levy dollars improved access to post traumatic stress disorder and other counseling services for veterans and their families, and has led to talk amidst the levy's advisory board members of further programs for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Many of them are coming home with not only traumatic stress disorder, but we're hearing about more of them coming home with traumatic brain injuries," she said.
"We certainly don't want to duplicate what the Veteran's Administration is doing, but we do want to build on and expand on it," Peterson said.
Peterson said the second important part of the levy is to create enhanced programs and services for low-income families with young children, and increased availability for in-home treatment for seniors with depression.
For young families, levy funds are paying for visiting nurse programs for parents with infants, which Peterson said has been shown to prevent juvenile delinquency and other problems in later years.
In addition, the county is offering employment training for parents with the goal of helping them "onto the job track," Peterson said.
Two new oversight boards, the Regional Human Services Levy Oversight Board and the Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board, convened in early 2007 to evaluate how effectively the levy funds have been used.
Over the past year, members spent hundreds of hours reviewing procurement plans, program designs and agency proposals for the new and enhanced services identified in the Veterans and Human Services Levy Service Improvement Plan approved by the King County Council in 2006.
"When I helped draft this ballot measure, it was imperative that the funds be used for King County veterans, families, and other vulnerable citizens," said King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson, who led the effort to place the levy before the voters in 2005.
The report said the King County Veterans' Program expanded basic stability services such as food, transportation and housing assistance. A new office, co-located with the county's WorkSource Renton, links veterans to employment and training services as well as veterans' assistance to help residents of south King County.
Board members and county staff presented the Veterans and Human Services Levy Annual Report to the King County Regional Policy Committee on June 11. They'll present the information again, to the Law, Justice and Human Services Committee, on June 19.
Fore more information on services available through the levy, go to www.kingcounty.gov/dchs/levy.