United for United Way: Priority Veteran works to end veteran homelessness

Updated: Sep. 30, 2020 at 1:08 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The United Way of Central Alabama supports 80 programs, and many of those have seen a surge in need during the pandemic, including Priority Veteran.

“We are expecting, because of the economic crisis of this, that we are going to see the effects through next year of people who have lost jobs and are falling behind on rent,” said Lula Skowronek, Director of Priority Veteran. “So, the need is very great.”

Priority Veteran was founded in 2014, and since then, the organization has helped nearly 2,000 veterans out of homelessness, including almost 500 last year.

“In addition to the risk factors like poverty, mental illness or substance abuse that affect the general population, veterans have higher rates of PTSD and head injury, and both of those are significant contributing factors towards homelessness.”

Transitioning from Military Service to civilian life isn’t easy, and the stress is magnified in the pandemic, said Skowronek. She said there has been an increased need for assistance from Priority Veteran since March, and she expects that to continue through next year.

“This is the time where a lot of people are going to fall behind on their rent, and we want those people, veterans to reach out to us,” she said.

Once connected with Priority Veteran, Skowronek said the veteran is paired with a case manager who finds immediate housing.

“Then, you are looking at the broader issues – healthcare, mental healthcare, employment, financial management, issues with the family, all of those things are issues a veteran and case manager work together to figure how they can be resolved,” she continued.

Skowronek said nearly 90 percent of the veterans helped are still in permanent housing a year later.

“One of the things I love about this job is we are making such a clear, concrete direct impact on somebody’s life that really can make all the difference, absolutely turn things around for somebody, so it’s incredible rewarding to be involved in with it,” Skowronek concluded.

If you need assistance from Priority Veteran, call 1-866-460-3827.

If you can give, donate online or by texting United to 62644.

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