Part One: North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network’s Work with MHP: “It saved our agency.”

It all began with a Google search. In 2020, with the global pandemic raging, Cheri Tinker felt overwhelmed in her position as Executive Director of the North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network (NORVHN), an organization she founded. While NORVHN was experiencing growth, it was all set up on one person’s shoulders. Like many nonprofits, NORVHN evolved from the passion of one individual – in this case, Cheri’s passion was helping homeless vets in her community. But never having run a organization like this before, she built it the only way she knew how. NORVHN’s foundation wasn’t solid, making their important work unsustainable. Cheri turned to an internet search, and stumbled upon MHP. That, she says, was “transformative.”

Once houseless veterans served by Sarge’s Place.

NORVHN works with homeless Veterans of Clallam and Jefferson Counties on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington State, providing emergency shelter and permanent housing for Veterans in Washington State. This includes a 7-unit permanent supportive project built using modular housing, the first of its kind in the State of Washington. They also have a 2-story apartment building in Forks (Sarge’s Place), a second-hand store, a farm, a 4-plex in Port Angeles, and more. At the time Cheri contacted MHP, they had the projects and momentum, what they needed was the structure and support to make it sustainable.

When COVID struck, and NORVHN’s access to grants dried up, they applied for technical assistance with MHP with the goal of making them “whole.” MHP’s work came via the uber capable hands of Deputy Community Development Director Barbara Dolan. Barbara helped Cheri on all of the aspects of an organization that are hidden from the public–the unsexy yet critical work like sound practices, procedures, policies, manuals. She helped streamline their bookkeeping processes, transforming their audits and how grantors viewed their finances. They worked on restructuring the board of directors from elderly Vietnam Vets who didn’t have the capacity to support Cheri’s work, to a highly functioning board who could make important connections in the community. They did strategic planning, succession planning, and built an incredible structure for the organization. As Cheri gushes, “MHP saved our agency—you made it vibrant and healthy again!”

This is Part One in a two-part series on MHP’s work with NORVHN. Read Part Two in which we’ll tell Veteran David’s Story here.