October 29, 2009 in Washington Voices

Veterans shelter celebrates anniversary

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Lisa Leinberger photo

Volunteers and residents enjoy a lunch prepared by residents of the Pioneer Victory House. The house is a transitional home for homeless veterans.
(Full-size photo)

The Pioneer Victory House, 925 W. Broadway Ave., opened its doors a year ago to homeless veterans. Residents held a lunch recently to celebrate, honoring the volunteers and residents who have moved into their own homes.

John Livermore was an Air Force sergeant, a carpenter for 25 years and a truck driver for 12 years before he was laid off. He went through his savings, had to sell his car and his motor home. On Oct. 1, 2008, he entered the Union Gospel Mission with $50 in his pocket and a suitcase.

“I didn’t know anybody in Spokane,” he said.

After 2 1/2 months at the Union Gospel, he moved into the Pioneer Victory House. The staff helped him claim his veteran pension and wade through the social services programs he needed to get healthy – alcohol treatments, Medicaid and Department of Social and Health Services, among others.

“I pretty much applied for all of them,” he said.

On May 15, he signed a lease to his own apartment and has been on his own ever since.

“I couldn’t have done this without the help of all these organizations,” he told the crowd at the celebration.

The house has 35 beds – and a waiting list. When it opened a year ago, seven veterans lived at the house.

Staff members get the residents in touch with social services, schooling or employment opportunities and provide residents opportunities to volunteer at events such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games or Spokane’s annual Bloomsday race.

The celebration included a lunch of Mexican food prepared by resident Larry Vega. He made the refried beans from scratch.

Vega said he is the chair of the veterans council at the house, a system of self-government to settle disputes and serve as a liaison between the residents and staff. Vega assigns residents chores to keep the place running smoothly.

“I couldn’t do what I do without the veterans’ council,” he said.

The house also depends on volunteer support from the community, and several volunteers were honored.

Most notably was Barbara Curtis of Cheney, presented with the Goliath Award for her work baking cookies for residents and collecting donations along with Cheney residents Helen Boots and Carol Betz.

“This house means so much to me,” Curtis said when she received her award.


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