Part Two: North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network’s Work with MHP: David’s Story

Part I centered on MHP’s technical assistance work with North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network (NORVHN), which involved instilling sound practices, procedures, and policies for the fast-growing organization. MHP facilitated strategic planning and worked to build a solid foundation for the organization. Critically, MHP helped NORVHN restructure its board of directors to a highly functioning body with the capacity to make important connections in the community. Cheri Tinker, Executive Director, shared how this has impacted the veterans that they serve, highlighting the story of veteran David Williams.

Photo: NORVHN client David Williams

Viola, one of the new board members from this process, works in direct service – and because of her relationship with NORVHN, referred David to them. Without that connection, without Viola knowing NORVHN’s unique set of services, David wouldn’t have ever come to them, as on the surface his medical issues made him seem beyond their care.

David, whom Cheri calls, “A quiet, delightful man,” was homeless and had a mountain of health issues. Although he had been clean and sober for 8 years when he came to Sarge’s Place (one of NORVHN’s shelters), he was previously a chronic drug user, which wreaked havoc on his memory and body. He had severe diabetes, which he did not monitor. He was accepted into the shelter and the staff stabilized his medical condition. There he lived for 8 months – concurrent to NORVHN receiving MHP technical assistance with Deputy Director of Community Development Barbara Dolan.

NORVHN built Hobucket House, a permanent, 7-bedroom group home, David was able to move right in. One night he passed away peacefully. When the Chief of Police arrived, himself a combat vet, he noted that although David had only lived at Hobucket House for 3 weeks, he died with “family.”

David had no connection to family or friends – the staff and residents of the organization were it. They serve as the familial unit for many of the residents. NORVHN is often listed as next of kin for these previously homeless vets. In fact, several urns of ashes sit with Cheri at her desk, who honors their memory as part of their program.

Cheri says about David, “It was a beautiful thing that we could support him at the end of his life. He had a comfortable place, he was eating and drinking, he was warm, and he was dry. A man who had lived on the streets for years died with dignity in a comfortable environment with a sense of family. We were able to give someone the compassion of being present with them at the end of their life.”

“Without that connectivity – from the board being expanded and more vibrant, maybe David might not have been in our care.” That’s due to MHP’s technical assistance, which helped “bring truth out from our essence.” “MHP and Barbara helped us to create the foundation. I had the scaffolding, they helped to create the foundation.”