When Erica Thomas, who recently retired after 32 years in the U.S. Army, National Guard and Reserve, was facing imminent eviction, Priority Veteran stepped in to help. “I had never been to the point of eviction at any point in my life,” she recalled. “And it was scary.”
Erica was deployed twice to Iraq, and as a result of her time there, she suffered a back injury and developed PTSD. “I had to deal with my peers not coming back,” she said. “I didn’t go towards a lot of combat. I remained on base, but we got bombed almost every day.” When she returned to the States, the things she had been through began affecting her daily life. She had a job that she ultimately left because it required sitting for long periods of time, which caused her back pain to flare. Her next job was part-time because so much of her week was filled with appointments at the VA, doctor and physical therapy. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the small company she worked for struggled to stay in business, and she was laid off. It was then that the bills began to pile up, culminating with her eviction notice.
She began searching for programs that could help. She looked at several that either weren’t able to assist with the eviction or couldn’t take action for months, when it would be too late. It was at that point that a friend recommended she check with Priority Veteran. She called, and they called right back, setting up an appointment and soon getting her into the program.
Priority Veteran stepped in immediately and stopped the eviction by working with her landlord. “My case worker went the extra mile and told me about other resources,” Erica said. In addition to suspending the eviction, Priority Veteran helped her with utilities and offered financial education opportunities to help her set up a budget. She said, “When I thought there was no other way, they made a way for me.”
Priority Veteran, in partnership with United Way of Central Alabama, 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 are at immediate risk of losing their homes. This is the program’s 10-year anniversary, and in that decade, Priority Veteran has served more than 3,500 individual veteran families — 63% of whom were experiencing homelessness and 37% were at imminent risk. Upon completing the program, 82% of the clients served were in permanent housing.
With the understanding that no two veterans’ stories are the same, Priority Veteran offers a wide range of services and one-on-one case management. Services include securing stable housing, job-search assistance, veteran benefit enrollment, financial coaching and more, with the goal to not only provide for physical needs but to establish long-term independence for veterans.
To learn more about the services Priority Veteran offers, read more testimonies or see how you can get involved, visit www.PriorityVeteran.org