PORT ORCHARD — The Transitional Housing Program, which operates in both the Port Orchard and Orting veterans homes, has received two grants from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs announced the awards in a Sept. 10 news release. The federal agency said in March that approximately $50 million in capital grants would be available to increase safety and reduce the risk to veterans in grant and per diem transitional housing, individuals who otherwise would be experiencing homelessness.
Heidi Audette, the spokeswoman for the state’s Veterans Affairs, said that mounting risks posed to vulnerable populations from public health concerns such as the coronavirus and other infectious diseases created a need to increase safety in transitional housing.
The $2.4 million capital grant provides funds to convert 20 double occupancy rooms in Building 10 at Retsil to single rooms with a private bathroom. The project will reduce the capacity of Building 10 by 12 beds. However, those beds will be moved to Roosevelt Barracks in Orting and still be available to serve veterans.
Audette said the conversion to single rooms not only reduces the risk of contracting infectious diseases, but it also offers veterans more privacy and independence, particularly for those working in the community or attending off-site meetings.
“Private rooms provide a space and time for veterans to heal from their hidden and physical wounds with dignity and respect,” the spokeswoman said. “This healing allows veterans to get connected to supportive services and benefits that lead to successful program completion and return to the community.”
The $225,000 case management grant allocates funds to a support case manager who provides services that help veterans maintain self-sufficiency and housing stability, Audette said. She added that it is essential for veterans who have completed the transitional housing program and need housing in their community.
COVID case update at Retsil
At the end of August, Veterans Affairs officials were considering transferring residents to other facilities this month as a result of staffing shortages. Audette said, however, that no transfers will be needed as of Sept. 8.
“While we do still have some staffing shortages, we have taken other measures that will allow us to continue caring for each of our residents at this time,” she said. “Measures such as managing beds and moving residents internally have allowed us to hold units vacant and consolidate staff members.”
Audette said the agency is continuing to hold the admittance of new residents, using contracted agency staff members to fill in where there are vacancies, and actively recruit to fill vacant positions. She noted that future transfers may be needed, but if that decision is made, residents and families will be given advance notice and an explanation of what steps will be taken.
As of the most recent testing period, a total of 56 residents at the Port Orchard facility had positive test results. The most recent positive resident was identified on Aug. 18. Those statistics, she said, do not indicate any of the cases are now active. A total of 30 staff members tested positive as of Aug. 27; none of those confirmed are active cases.
At the transitional housing program in Retsil, one resident tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Audette said resident testing will continue at least every three to seven days until 14 days have passed without a positive result. Staff members will continue to be tested on an ongoing basis.