It’s no secret; Veterans face many unique challenges. Opportunity Council is here to help

Veterans encounter a variety of challenges, from health problems to employment issues, as well as a difficult-to-navigate bureaucracy that can make it hard to even know what help is available. At Opportunity Council, we recognize these difficulties and are committed to helping by administering the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program locally and partnering with others on events like the recent Stand Down for Whatcom County Veterans. Through partnerships and programs, we aim to make sure all Veterans can access the resources and support they deserve to be able to be self-sufficient and succeed.

Four people sit behind a check-in desk with their laptops, smiling.

Opportunity Council's Ashley, Cori, Jenn, and Jess smile as they greet attendees of the Stand Down for Whatcom County Veterans.

Two men in U.S. Coast Guard uniforms stand behind a table piled with gear.

Two U.S. Coast Guard members table at the Stand Down, standing behind piles of free gear offered to guests.

A person grabs a flyer at a table piled with print materials with info.

An attendee grabs a flyer at an information at the Stand Down. Service provider tables filled the American Legion space, offering information and resources.

What is SSVF?

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aimed at promoting housing stability among very low-income Veteran families. Opportunity Council administers the SSVF in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Clallam and Jefferson Counties. Designed to protect Veterans from falling into homelessness (or help them escape it), SSVF offers temporary financial assistance for expenses such as rent, utilities, moving costs, transportation, and childcare. The program also includes case management and assistance in obtaining VA and other public benefits—ensuring that Veterans receive comprehensive support tailored to their specific needs.

Overcoming Obstacles with SSVF

The SSVF program is designed to provide housing and support services to Veterans who have served in active military, naval, or air service and their families. This program specifically targets Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. By working closely with each Veteran and their household, we identify challenges to their stability and determine the best steps forward. Our support includes helping Veterans learn what benefits are available through the Veterans Affairs department (VA), as well as which state and local resources they may be eligible for.

The Impact of Stand Down Events

The term “Stand Down” originally referred to a brief respite for combat units, allowing soldiers to rest and recover in a secure location. Today, Stand Down Events for Veterans help with things like health care, housing assistance, employment services, legal aid, and basic necessities like clothing and hygiene products. These events, which take place across the U.S., are community-based interventions designed to provide Veterans who are homeless with a safe, supportive environment where they can receive a variety of services. In Skagit and Island Counties, Veterans are served by the Skagit County Veterans Stand Down, while 2024 was the inaugural year of the Stand Down for Whatcom County Veterans event.

Three people stand behind their event information tables with resources on them.

Service providers sit behind their information table at the Stand Down, offering info and resources.

Taking place May 3rd and hosted in collaboration with American Legion Albert J. Hamilton Post 7, the event was a resounding success. Veterans were able to connect with service providers, receive free gear and haircuts, and much more. They learned about housing, health, social, and Veterans’ services while enjoying a free hot meal. Many items, including hygiene products, blankets, sleeping bags, and boots, were provided by various organizations tabling at the event. Additionally, WTA offered free rides for Veterans, ensuring they had free transportation to and from the event.

Beyond events like the Stand Down, our SSVF team works closely with each Veteran and their household. Beginning with figuring out which Veterans Administration, state, and local benefits are available, the SSVF case manager is there to come alongside the Veteran and their household with the help and services Veterans may need to get on their feet. For example, we can:

  • Help Veterans falling behind on their bills pay their rent and/or utilities
  • Pay the security or utility deposits that can be so difficult for people with limited incomes to pay for
  • Make sure Veterans can get where they need to by helping with car repair, public transit fares and moving costs.

In addition, Veterans looking for work or need a hand maintaining a job can receive support for uniforms, tools, driver’s license fees, certification costs, and short-term training. We can also help Veterans access county Veteran Assistance Funds (VAF) to help bridge gaps with food and fuel vouchers while we work towards finding permanent solutions.

A Heartfelt Thank You for Stand Down Supporters

Thank you to Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW, Bellingham Vet Center, Disabled Veterans National Foundation – DVNF, Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs – Mount Vernon Clinic, WorkSource, Nine9line Veteran Services, Growing Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Northwest Regional Council, Unity Care NW, Dr. Scot Clough, DOL2Go, Evergreen Goodwill, Northwest Justice Project, Health Ministries Network, Copy Source, Cofywa, U.S. Coast Guard Station Bellingham, U.S. Army, Wally’s Barber Shop Inc, Woods Coffee, Kingdom Gathering Outreach, and everyone who supported the Stand Down. We couldn’t do it without you!

We’re Here to Help

The challenges faced by Veterans can be daunting and shouldn’t be faced by anyone who has served their country. Thanks to established programs like SSVF, a dedicated team of case managers, and a supportive community, Veterans don’t have to overcome those challenges alone.

Veterans or members of their households can connect directly with Veterans Services professionals online or through their local community resource center.