GREEN COUNTRY — With the temperatures continuing to stay near the triple digits, it can be extremely dangerous to be outside for an extended period.
And those experiencing homelessness have increased exposure to the elements.
There are many organizations in Green Country that focus on that population, but a program with Community Service Council focuses exclusively on our nation's heroes.
"On a daily basis, we interface with a veteran who is either in the housing crisis, they're literally homeless, or they're facing eviction, imminent eviction within 21 days," Rachel Runfola, program director for Supportive Services for Veteran Families said.
Right now, SSVF covers 35 counties in eastern Oklahoma.
"We help people from up in the corner, a northeast corner like Vinita Claire down to the Lawton area,” Runfola said.
During the hotter months, her office sees an increase in need.
"In the summertime, we have them come through the door,” Runfola said. “it's hot, they want to have housing."
But it is not just during the warmer times of the year.
That need is always there.
"In a typical year, we're going to spend somewhere between 500,000 to $750,000 on veteran financial requirements," Runfola said.
That includes paying for deposits on housing and utilities, help with rent, moving and storage costs, and transportation, just to name a few.
It is paid for with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SSVF grant.
"It is completely funded by the grant,” Runfola said. “And so we're, I mean, we have pretty strict guidelines financially, but it's also a lot, it's pretty wide. So, we're able to help with a lot of things."
Runfola says the program’s help is far-reaching.
"We wraparound fully around the individual,” Runfola said. “They're here with us from anywhere from generally six to nine months. So we're really watching their progress, where we really want to make sure that when they leave when we discharge them, they're stable."
SSVF contacts veterans in a variety of ways, all channeling through its outreach team.
"We've done a lot of collaborating with local entities, shelters, employment agencies, whatever's in those areas, and they'll call us or they run across somebody that needs help," Runfola said.
There are some eligibility requirements to participate with SSVF.
- Veterans must have at least one day of active service after training and have been discharged with anything other than dishonorable.
- Household income is below 50% of the median area income
- Homeless or facing eviction
On the topic of income requirements, Runfola said it can be quite hard to live on that amount of money.
“So, in our current environment, economically, that's pretty tight,” Runfola said. “Talking about housing prices, housing insurance, the pandemic, here in Oklahoma has skyrocketed. So, while it's good for the private homeowner, it's great for me, but it's not so great for somebody looking for housing.”
Runfola said the program does a lot of its work over the phone and is able to sign the necessary documents in digital form, which has increased the speed at which they are able to work.
If you, or someone you know, needs assistance, dial 211.
For more details on Community Service Council and Supportive Services for Veteran Families, visit their website
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