BREMERTON — Forty-five veterans were living without shelter in Kitsap County when a survey was conducted a year ago.
This month that number was down to five, and housing officials say they are on the verge of effectively eliminating veteran homelessness in Kitsap.
“We’ve made tremendous progress on getting unsheltered veterans indoors,” county Housing and Homelessness Coordinator Kirsten Jewell said.
The sudden success in housing homeless veterans can be credited to an countywide initiative launched last year. The Homes for All Who Served program started with leadership from Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, who responded to a federal “Mayors Challenge” urging cities to take the lead on ending veteran homelessness. Partners in the Kitsap initiative have focused on identifying homeless veterans, streamlining access to services like rental assistance, and encouraging landlords to make homes available to vets.
The coordinated effort proved effective. More than 100 veteran households found homes through the program in the past year.
“We’ve had so much success getting veterans off the streets and inside again,” Lent said in a news release updating progress on the initiative. “Our city and county have really stepped up to this challenge, but we still have work to do.”
Jewell said the shortage of affordable homes in the county has stymied progress toward fully eliminating veteran homelessness. With the region’s housing market booming, affordable units are scarce, even for veterans who qualify for subsidies.
“There’s just not enough affordable housing out there,” Jewell said. “That’s frustrating.”