Expanding Assistance to Veterans Experiencing Homelessness
NFL-BWF Salute to Service Grant Supports 500 Veterans to Regain Self-Sufficiency
Since 1970, Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) has worked to ease homelessness in Northern California by providing food, housing, and supportive services. In 2013, BFHP began to work with veterans and their families through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), a national initiative of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Through the SSVF program, BFHP helps veterans experiencing homelessness find safe, secure housing, supports these veterans with employment assistance and wellbeing programs, and provides services that keep veterans housed.
Today, reeling from the combined impacts of COVID and skyrocketing housing costs, the organization is navigating significant challenges. The California counties in which BFHP works — Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, San Joaquin, Sacramento, and Amador—have some of the highest homelessness rates in the nation reaching over 16% (U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2020) compared to a national average of 6.5% (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2020). As the homelessness rates have increased in these counties, so, too, have BFHP’s program costs. In addition, while the SSVF program covers costs for housing and employment support, the program does not cover complementary services such as outreach, home supplies, and food –all of which our veterans experiencing homelessness need.
A National Football League-Bob Woodruff Foundation (NFL-BWF) Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant is helping BFHP provide food, household supplies (small appliances, furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, etc.), employment assistance, and transportation to veterans experiencing homelessness. With the grant funding, BFHP will ensure at least 500 veterans experiencing homelessness and food insecurity become self-sufficient by helping them access stable housing, food, and employment services.
A Veteran Experiencing Homelessness Moves to Housed and Grateful
BFHP worked with D. Burris in their Veterans Transitional Housing program. Mr. Burris sustained a leg injury while in the service. However, he was able and eager to rejoin the civilian workforce after leaving the Army. Building on his trade experience in the Army, Mr. Burris worked professionally as a plumber for seven years after leaving the service. In 2003, after a 17-hour shift, he fell asleep at the wheel and was in a major car accident. He sustained multiple injuries including a traumatic brain injury (TBI). As a result, Mr. Burris continues to suffer from memory loss, mood swings, and other symptoms. Because of these symptoms, Mr. Burris was unable to work. His relationship with his spouse suffered and they divorced, leading to his period of homelessness.
Mr. Burris was referred to BFHP from a VA medical facility while being treated for his TBI. Before connecting with BFHP, Mr. Burris stayed at a shelter in Solano County operated by a different agency. He was eventually housed through this program, but the situation was unsafe and unstable. While it was a difficult decision, Mr. Burris chose to leave that housing environment. Fortunately, he was connected with the Veterans Transitional Housing Program in Berkeley.
The BFHP case manager accommodated Mr. Burris’ preference to live in Contra Costa County, an area he knew. He also had connections there, and could keep his service dog, Smiley, with him at BFHP’s Dwight Way Center. There were some County delays in securing a HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher. This led to a longer than usual stay in their transitional housing program (22 months). However, BFHP remained dedicated to finding him a safe, sustainable place that he felt comfortable calling home.
In his work with BFHP, Mr. Burris found permanent housing. The housing was in the location he prefers and with the conditions he needs to thrive and maintain stability. BFHP provided Mr. Burris with essential kitchen and home supplies. These items will increase his chance of establishing and maintaining his household long-term.
“The Bob Woodruff Foundation ensures NFL-BWF Salute to Service investments are made in best-in-class organizations that will maximize impact in the areas of highest need. During this inflationary period, more veterans and military families are again having to choose between rent payments and nutritious food for their families-decisions nobody should have to make,” said Kelly Clark, Bob Woodruff Foundation Chief of Staff. “We are proud to partner with organizations like Berkeley Food & Housing Project to make a sustainable difference in veterans’ lives.”
For more information about the Berkeley Food & Housing Project, visit their website.
For questions about the NFL-BWF partnership, visit the program page.