King County Veterans and Human Services Levy Makes a Difference

In November 2005 and again in 2011, King County voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that established the Veterans and Human Services Levy. The Levy funds services in four major areas:

  • Supporting veterans and their families.
  • Reducing and preventing homelessness.
  • Improving health by integrating medical and behavioral health services.
  • Strengthening families needing support to get off on the right track.

By December 2013, almost 220,000 clients received one or more levy-funded services. The stories of some clients whose lives were changed by those services are documented in the annual reports.

Thank you, PEARLS. I am more positive now.

"The last few years have been very difficult. My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and, after 30 years of marriage, I had to place him in an assisted living group home. I could not find peace within myself for having to do that. Then my pillar and support, my mother, died … I was lost and alone … I needed to clear out mother's belongings and prepare the home for sale … I just couldn't seem to do it. I was confused, growing bitter and feeling I have to do it all. I am so thankful for the PEARLS program."

PEARLS for Veterans, administered by Aging and Disability Services, receives funding from the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/veterans.

Those words were spoken by a Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS) client. PEARLS is a community-integrated program to treat older adults with disabilities who have minor depression. Thanks to the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, PEARLS services have improved the lives of dozens of older veterans who have had similar experiences and feelings.

"When the PEARLS counselor started visiting me, my attitude changed," continued the client. "Her caring, comforting, honest manner is helping me find peace within. I am more assertive in asking for assistance, focusing better and am more positive. I have started going to Weight Watchers, exercise class, doing social activities with friends and attending activities at the senior center. I'm working on rebuilding family relationships. I even felt good in giving away my mother's treasures to the homeless.

"I greatly appreciate the PEARLS program. I know I need to focus now, appreciate what I have going for me, take time for me—without feeling guilty."

Outreach services support independence

The King County Veteran's Program—in existence since the 1950s—received a boost when the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy funded creation of satellite and outreach services. One of the program's outreach workers targets senior centers throughout the county to be sure older adults are aware of Veterans Affairs benefits and services for which they may qualify, as well as those available through the King County Veteran's Program. These may include emergency financial assistance, housing assistance, employment guidance, case management, life stability, veterans benefits counseling, mental health referrals, or other supportive services.

The 2013 Veterans and Human Services Levy Annual Report is available for viewing, along with details of the 40 Levy-funded programs, at www.KingCounty.gov/DCHS/Levy

During one of these outreach visits, the worker met John and his friend, Frank. John is a World War II veteran who fought in France. At 101 years old, he has lived in the same house in Renton for the last 50 years. Right across the street, his good friend Frank—a youngster at 84 years old—is also a veteran.

When John's wife passed on several years ago, he decided to stay in his home. That is when John and Frank made a pact. Both being alone, they decided they would help each other out as long as they were able. Until age 95, John was pretty self-sufficient. He could be found out cleaning the gutters or out fishing with Frank. Now John has slowed down some, and Frank brings him dinner every night.

The outreach worker marveled at this relationship and vowed to help out. He arranged appointments for John and Frank at the VA Medical Center so they could both get assistance with their medical needs. The outreach worker went the extra mile by driving John and Frank to the Medical Center. The VA was able to help them both.

John had a brief stay in a nursing home rehabilitating from getting a pacemaker, topping off his stay there by celebrating his 101st birthday. The very next day he was checked out of the facility and went home, this time with peace of mind, knowing where he could get help if he needed it.

The King County Veterans and Human Services Levy is funded by a property tax that costs the average home owner in the county about $17 a year. The levy brings in revenues of about $18 million annually that are split 50:50 between services for veterans and their families, and human services for individuals and families in need. It is currently approved through 2017. For more information, visit www.KingCounty.gov/DCHS/Levy.