Yesterday — Veterans Day — coincided with our weekly Broker Tour meeting at the Central Oregon Association of Realtors offices, when we get together and talk about new listings and such. During the gathering, we had a fitting reminder of how blessed we all are to have a home. Representatives of Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO) spoke to us about the non-profit organization’s mission — to serve, assist and create support for Central Oregon veterans — and the many ways they’re doing that.
So I thought I’d take a moment here to not talk about the housing market and instead talk about how COVO is helping low-income veterans and vets who don’t have a home improve their lives and get the services they deserve.
First, a little history. COVO was formed in 2005, when two members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #820 in Bend begun interacting with homeless vets living on the streets or in camps in the area. Their goal was simply to provide food, clothing, sustenance items and survival gear. Over the years, that focus has broadened to include getting homeless or at-risk veterans off the streets, finding them jobs, assisting them with their VA pensions/compensation and removing barriers that keep them homeless.
The core of COVO is its Homeless Outreach Center, which was originally created to provide food, clothing and shelter to homeless veterans living on the streets; but it has since transformed into a stocked resource center, where homeless veterans are provided essentials for living outside.
There’s also COVO’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Sponsored by a grant from the Veterans Administration, it promotes housing stability among very low-income veterans (and their families) who are homeless, in housing crisis or at imminent risk of losing their home, through various supportive and financial services, such as case management, connection to veteran services, eviction prevention assistance, and rental and utility assistance.
COVO’s Housing Program includes a growing inventory of COVO properties, which are used to provide emergency, transitional and permanent housing solutions for homeless or at-risk veterans. At the core of that is Home of the Brave, a six-bed transitional facility for veterans. Funded by the Veterans Administration, it was established to provide safety, structure and the time needed for veterans to make the transition from homelessness to a sustainable future. Veterans typically stay here for 12 to 18 months and receive case management on a weekly basis.
Finally, the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program, funded by the Veterans Administration and in partnership with Bend’s Bethlehem Inn, offers a transitional program for homeless veterans. Bethlehem Inn provides shelter and basic necessities and shares intensive case management duties with COVO, working with the veterans to find sustainable housing, employment assistance and medical help available through the VA.
After COVO’s presentation to COAR — which was led by Realtor Kathleen Leppert, a COVO staff member who manages COVO’s rental properties — we passed the hat. I was pleased to see that practically every COAR member in attendance made a contribution. Yes, it was just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start.
And now Veterans Day 2014 is in the history books. Its purpose, however, remains: to honor our veterans. And who knows — perhaps this post will inspire you to share COVOS’s ongoing mission to honor our veterans, by donating your time and/or resources to this much-needed organization.
To learn how you can help, call COVO at 541-383-2793, check out the COVO website or visit the COVO headquarters in Bend, at 61510 S. Highway 97. Current needs (in addition to monetary contributions) include winter clothing, sleeping bags, tents, tarps and canned food. And, of course, if you’d like to volunteer at COVO, there are many opportunities.