Walking into their new home, Clyde Didrickson and his wife, Charlotte, could not wipe the smiles off their faces.
The couple has been searching for a home since Clyde came back from fighting in the Vietnam War in 1972. Clyde said he has done everything he could to survive during that time by hunting and fishing while living in the woods. The couple was able to move in Friday through Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority grant funding aimed to help veterans find housing.
“It is my home finally,” Clyde, 66, said in front of his new home Friday morning. “It is pretty hard living on the streets.”
THRHA received the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act funding three years ago, according to Director of Housing Services Norton Gregory. But it has only been able to utilize it after Robin Murdock, a Tribal Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing case worker, made the move from New York to Juneau last year. THRHA is one of 23 programs nationwide that was given this funding, Gregory said. Since then, the program has used 19 of its 20 vouchers for housing and they are actively searching for the last people to house. Once housed, the people meet with Brenner regularly to make sure they are able to take care of themselves.
“We try to meet up once a week until we get them through the housing process,” Murdock said. “Once they get settled in and if they don’t really need a whole lot of services, I will meet them once a month to try to link them into the VA services.”
Murdock said for those who can work, the VA will help veterans find jobs. Murdock said two people are currently working who are in the program. The housing is mostly paid through the grant and veterans will pay 30 percent of their income toward the housing. Murdock said through the outreach at Glory Hole Homeless Shelter she was able to get in contact with the Didricksons. She said the program can take anywhere from one day to three weeks to go from finding someone in need and placing them into a new home. The veterans go through a screening process and once cleared, the VA and THRHA look for housing. For people to be eligible for the permanent housing, they must be veterans that were honorably discharged and not currently or have ever been on the sex offender registry.
Murdock has traveled throughout Southeast Alaska since taking on the project. The program has helped people in Yakutat, Juneau, Petersburg, Saxman and Craig. Norton said he and Murdock walk around Juneau promoting the program and receiving tips from the public on who may need help.
“Often times people in the community know veterans who may need extra assistance,” Gregory said. “We found out that the most effective way to reach out to these folks was just to hit the ground.”
Gregory said THRHA has only one voucher left and he is hoping that another grant will allow this program to continue.
“If we could get more vouchers, we would certainly be able to use them,” Gregory said. “We are hoping to get 20 more and I think we would be able to utilize those vouchers.”
And if the Didricksons are an example of what the program can do, it will change 20 more families’ lives.
“It is a blessing,” Clyde said.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.