ARPA funds go to bridge gap in veteran housing programs

COVID-19 halted VA allocation; federal dollars coming this October

FORKS — Clallam County commissioners have unanimously approved a request for $40,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to fill a gap for the North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network.

The North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network (NOVHN), which is based in Forks, provides housing for homeless veterans. It operates Sarge’s Place and Hobucket House in Forks and The Outpost in Port Angeles. In January of this year, it purchased a house in Sequim that will become the Lt. Colonel James Minsky Place.

NOVHN made the request in May to cover the unexpected funding gap caused by the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program. It was approved on Tuesday.

“The VA trimmed down our contract down to five beds. … As of March 28, they didn’t renew our contract and moved those five beds to the I-5 area,” Executive Director Cherie Tinker said Tuesday.

“We thought it would go back up after COVID, and they (VA) said, no, we have too critical a need in the Seattle hospital systems.”

NOVHN was able to secure funding from the office of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, but it will not be available until October.

“We have some appropriations funds from Sen. Murray that are going to pay for our operating dollars and our soft costs for Minsky Place, which is our newest building that we purchased in Sequim,” Tinker said. “That will help with some of the oversight.”

NOVHN was given about $900,000 in appropriations funds that it, again, cannot access until October due to the functions of the federal funding cycles.

“Were very grateful that we can use that for some of the operating dollars because we weren’t sure what we were going to do,” Tinker said.

This $40,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will act as a bridge to keep programs going until October.

“The county asked, ‘Well is this a COVID issue?’ And we said yes, a direct COVID issue,” Tinker said.

The VA requires that the oversight of these buildings be done by someone with a master’s degree in social work to provide therapy services to the veterans living in these facilities.

That is one of Tinker’s many roles.

“So our housing programs all have me as oversight as well,” Tinker said. “We have one in Port Angeles, two buildings in Forks, and then Minsky will come online next year.”

Tinker said NOVHN will be able to build in up to 10 years on the appropriations funds for its operating dollars, including hiring a social worker who can be attached to the Minsky building and provide support for Port Angeles and Sequim veterans.

The Minsky building was purchased for $500,000, funded by the estate of James Minsky.

NOVHN has applied for and been granted ARPA funding in the past, initially requesting $59,000 for the Hobucket House in September 2021.

The Hobucket House is located in Forks and is a home for disabled veterans on an income of 50 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI).

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com

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