Are you a veteran in need of help? Having trouble finding the information or services you need?
Thanks to the vision of the City of Lacey and support from Thurston County, the South Puget Sound Community College and various veterans service providers, life has become a lot easier for the veterans living in our community. The vision is called the Lacey Veterans Services Hub (LVSH).
Established in 2014 by the City of Lacey, The Hub grew to include 20 service providers and five programs by 2016. Today, it has grown to 73 services and nine programs, brought together under one roof, providing one-stop services for the 32,000 veterans living in our communities.
Who do they help? The youngest veteran receiving benefits from The Hub was 22; the oldest was 93.
The Lacey Veterans Services Hub is run by one full time employee, manager Keith Looker, one part time employee, Shane Sullivan, and 40 volunteers. The Hub provides free information, training, referrals and classes on virtually everything veterans might need. While other veterans’ services offices across the nation offer limited referral services, what’s special about the Hub is that various agencies have staff on-site in the same building, according to Looker.
On-site services like the Vet Center for Behavioral Services will have their own offices rent free in exchange for the services they provide at no charge to veterans.
Some of the most important work they do is towards suicide prevention. “The decision was made in March of this year to remain open during the COVID 19 Pandemic,” explained Looker. “When COVID-19 struck and we started locking everybody in their homes, suicide rates increased from 22 deaths a day to about 35,” he added. To combat the loneliness and isolation, the Hub set up virtual daily online coffee group and yoga classes
The first month they reached out to 77 people and found 11 had already set the date they would commit suicide. Because of LVSH outreach, none of these veterans harmed themselves.
The Hub also provides access to the Leaving the Sidelines Program, which offers virtual holistic health care and physical training.
Transportation to the American Lake Veterans Administration Medical Center in Lakewood is provided by volunteers who drive a van donated by InterCity Transit. Food staples containing breakfast and lunch supplies are available for pick up Monday through Friday in conjunction with the Thurston County Food Bank. Healthcare screening and counseling programs are also available.
Veterans and their families experiencing homelessness or imminent risk of homelessness can access rapid rehousing and homeless prevention services, including case management, rent assistance, and utility deposits. Hopeful homebuyers are introduced to the VA Loan program. More than 500 local vets have been helped with just this service.
Financial, Legal and Employment Assistance
On-site help is offered for financial assistance and management, and guidance for navigating Medicaid, VA Disability and social security benefits, including access to the Washington State Health Plan Finder if ineligible for VA healthcare.
Legal help is available through the Northwest Justice Project and one private practice attorney. Vocational training, resume building and interview tips are classes available from Goodwill and WorkSource Thurston County. Employment events are also held and hiring is done on the spot.
Veterans and their families can verify VA education entitlements, connect to local colleges and universities, and explore additional Veteran education opportunities.
And More to Come…
The Lacey Veterans Services Hub is getting ready to expand again. It is currently located at 420 Golf Club Road SE in Lacey. Renovations are being made to more permanent space across the street in a building dedicated to The Hub on the South Puget Sound Community College Campus. Looker is expecting to move into the remodeled building around the first of the year.
This month the Governor's Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee (VAAC) and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs selected the Lacey Veterans Services Hub for the 2020 Outstanding Service to Veterans Team Award.
For more information on available services and programs, or to volunteer, contact the Lacey Veterans Services Hub at 360-456-3850.