Veterans needing a place to live now have another resource on the Olympic Peninsula, thanks to the Forks-based North Olympic Regional Veteran’s Housing Network (NORVHN) — this time, in Sequim.
NORVHN, a nonprofit focused on helping house at-risk veterans, purchased an eight-bedroom group home off South Seventh Avenue, executive director Cherie Tinker announced Jan. 21 on Facebook.
Thanks to a donation from the estate of the late Lt. Col. James Minsky (U.S. Air Force) of Sequim, made by friends and estate executors Helen and Greg Starr, Tinker said the nonprofit hopes to have the new home — called “Lt. Colonel James Minsky Place” — remodeled and ready for veterans by the fall.
“It was wild that it happened to be available,” Tinker said in an interview.
“This will be the first time we’ve done something in Sequim.”
Network officials have been planning a group home for at-risk/homeless veterans in Sequim for a few years, she said.
Minsky’s donation comes at the same time the housing network learned it will receive a $900,000 appropriation requested by Sen. Patty Murray, Tinker said.
While they wait to see how those funds can be used, Tinker said they have some potential options: remodel the new Sequim home; purchase a four-bedroom home for women veterans in Port Angeles, and/or buy more homes in Forks adjacent to their other properties.
Last year, NORVHN finished Hobucket House in Forks for permanently disabled, homeless veterans, with seven bedrooms across the street from Sarge’s Place, a veterans shelter.
Minsky’s donation was the largest ever in the history of the housing network, Tinker said.
The home on the 400 block of Salal Place in the City of Sequim sold for $520,000 through real estate agent Nell Clausen with RE/MAX Prime. Enough was leftover from the donation, Tinker said, that it paid off another mortgage and asphalt work in Forks, too.
“I feel we’ve utilized funds in a way James Minsky would be proud of,” Tinker said.
The Sequim house will be converted to primarily cater to elderly veterans, she said, after some remodel work will add bathrooms, improve the kitchen and remove two bedrooms to accommodate a larger entrance.
The home already has a case manager office, an intercom system, and sprinkler and monitoring systems.
Tinker said she’s unsure how many at-risk/homeless veterans are in the Sequim area, but she knows of at least three that now living in Forks facilities and would like to come back home.
“Some of them may be low income or have some income, but they need ongoing support like a social worker,” she said.
NORVHN has focused on helping veterans find housing since 2009.
“We’ve done a good job of helping reduce homelessness for veterans as our agency continues to create more housing,” Tinker said.
“I personally, as director, don’t want to take a house off the market, but this has the opportunity to serve a lot of individuals here.”
A house manager will be in the home 24 hours a day, Tinker said, and she’ll drive to Sequim once a week “to make sure everything is going great,” while a social worker would also check in often.
“This house coming along was a blessing for us and the community,” she said.
While multiple actions needed to fall into place for the sale to happen, Tinker said the former owner, an active duty U.S. Coast Guard member, will stay just a little bit longer.
She said he’s been living in a hotel as he couldn’t find a rental prior to moving for a new assignment, so she offered him a three-month lease with “minimal rent.”
He can do some smaller projects and gardening, Tinker said, and some landscape architects have given her some suggestions for what can be done in the yard.
One goal is to plant fruit trees and encourage residents to go outside and tend to the garden, she said.
“It’s an important part of our mission to get people outside,” Tinker said. “It’s very therapeutic.”
Another hope is to create a committee of community members to help manage the plantings and interact with the veterans, she added.
On Facebook, Tinker wrote: “Folks, we are all in this together. Housing is a communal affair, it takes a village to surround and support those in need and in crisis and to create housing for all levels of income. I am grateful that our program believes in creating new housing, that we are able to turn around and house a family immediately because they are unable to find it, and that our Board believes deeply in serving the Veterans within our community.”
Along with the North Olympic Regional Housing Network, Minsky’s estate gave to other local veteran service groups, and Clallam County Fire District 3.
For more about the North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network, visit sargesveteransupport.com.