The media and pop culture celebrate them as “heroes,” but for America’s veterans the compliment sometimes rings hollow.
Besides often having wounds (physical or mental) to deal with, they face the everyday struggles of trying to get by in the worst economy since the Great Depression. And the federal government has done disgracefully little to help.
On the local level, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach – a private, non-profit organization – is doing what it can to bridge the gap between what veterans need and what the government does. Founded in 2005, its efforts include providing food and clothing to homeless vets, transporting veterans to the Veterans Administration hospital in Portland for medical care, and running “Home of the Brave,” a transitional housing facility.
COVO’s latest project is to provide “permanent supportive housing” for veterans who are homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless. With the help of a $360,000 federal grant, it has purchased and is renovating a house on 10th Street in Bend, which it plans to turn into apartments for as many as 10 veterans and their families.
COVO hopes to have the home occupied by January. But before it can do that it has to get a conditional use permit from the city, and some residents are uneasy about having the home in their neighborhood. They recite the usual litany of worries – drinking, drug use, crime, and the safety of children attending nearby elementary and middle schools.
The neighbors’ concerns are understandable, especially in view of the recent history of the property: It formerly housed 20 developmentally disabled people, and since 2009 it’s been vacant and sometimes occupied by squatters. But their fears about the COVO project seem exaggerated.
According to COVO Executive Director Chuck Hemingway, the facility will only house veterans who are able to live independently – meaning they don’t need to be monitored to make sure they’re staying off alcohol and drugs or taking medications. A COVO employee will live in the facility to oversee things.
In other words, COVO isn’t going to be bringing in criminals off the streets. The residents will be ordinary, decent people who – like so many other Americans these days – are having a bit of a hard time making it. They might include a young Iraq vet working for minimum wage who can’t find an affordable apartment for herself and her child, or an aging Vietnam vet who’s lost his job and can’t find another one.
And the need for the facility is definitely out there. Hemingway says COVO already has received 28 applications for the 10 available apartments.
COVO has held one meeting with neighborhood residents and plans to schedule another one. Here’s hoping it will be able to assuage the residents’ fears and that the city will speedily give it the conditional use permit it needs.
Meanwhile, we’re giving COVO the GLASS SLIPPER in recognition of this project and the other efforts it’s making on behalf of a group of people who deserve better treatment from their country than they’ve gotten. Ladies and gentlemen, we salute you.