2023 has been an exciting year for United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA). Not only did the organization as a whole celebrate its 100th year of service, but one of its direct service programs also hit an important milestone. Priority Veteran is celebrating a decade of making a difference for veterans and their families. Priority Veteran, in partnership with UWCA, is an assistance program created through a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). The program is focused on serving U.S. military veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness or at immediate risk of losing their homes. “Since 2013, Priority Veteran has been instrumental in helping veterans with their unmet needs,” said Karla Lawrence, Senior Vice President of Community Initiatives. “Through our partnership with SSVF, we have been able to meet the housing needs of veterans and their families throughout Alabama.”
The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult, with veterans experiencing higher rates of unemployment, depression and PTSD than the general public. No two veterans’ stories or struggles are exactly alike, which is why Priority Veteran offers a range of services and one-on-one case management. With services such as securing stable housing, job-search assistance, veteran benefit enrollment, financial coaching and more, Priority Veteran aims to not only provide for physical needs but works to establish long-term independence for veterans.
Just one example of a situation where the program was able to step in to help was that of Floyd Alexander, a U.S. Army veteran from Huntsville. While serving, Alexander received the National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon/Sharpshooter Qualification Badge, Hand Grenade/Marksman Qualification Badge and the M-16 Rifle/Air Assault Badge. After returning home, however, hard times hit, and he and his spouse wound up living in a tent city in the Huntsville area. Priority Veteran was conducting outreach in the area and soon was able to help move the couple into an apartment that was convenient to shopping and transportation. After securing stable housing, Priority Veteran staff worked with the couple on financially stabilizing factors such as budgeting, reducing debt, obtaining timely health services and increasing their social and emotional support systems.
Through the course of 10 years, Priority Veteran has served over 3,500 individual veteran families — 63% of whom were experiencing homelessness and 37% were at imminent risk. 82% of the clients served were in permanent housing when they completed the program. Lula Skowronek, Director of Priority Veteran, said, “It has been incredible to see the Priority Veteran program grow over the past decade and to see so many families helped. These veterans have all made sacrifices for our country, and we feel privileged to be on the front lines of helping these heroes transition home.”
To learn more about the services Priority Veteran offers or to read more testimonies, visit www.PriorityVeteran.org. We can’t wait to see what the next decade of service holds!