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Building 9 for Veterans Transitional Housing Program

A 60-bed facility helps vets stabilize

Building 9 for Veteran Transitional Housing Programs is at the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil, Wash. Photo credit: Dept. of Veterans Affairs

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"Being compassionate and having your heart in the work and doing what you promise is what has led to our success and allows the veterans to trust us," Ray Switzer, program manager at Building 9 for Veterans Transitional Housing Program.

Physically, Building 9 is a 45,000 sq. ft. space located on the campus of the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil that has 60 beds available for the state's struggling veterans. In a less tangible way, Building 9 is changing lives and making a difference.

According to Switzer, a veteran himself who has served homeless veterans for the last 25 years, it is unusual from the perspective that the state of Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is the only state agency that runs such a program since most are federally funded and operated.

"I tell people that we are all about recycling in the Pacific Northwest and that it applies to our veterans as well. We are just giving them another chance and we are working to recycle them," he stated.

Specifically, Building 9 assists those in need of stable housing, vocational rehabilitation and increased income potential. The program, which began in 2006, has helped approximately 350 veterans transition into self-sufficient, regular lives in that time. Remarkably, 80 percent of the time, the Building 9 program is able to break the cycle of homelessness, which is well above the national average.

Within 72 hours of arrival, veterans can usually be in front of a service officer and start the process. Four service officers are on staff and the center is also open publically to veterans and dependents in the area who are not in need of a place to stay, but do need help navigating VA claims.

In the seven years since it opened, the Building 9 Service Center has garnered $84 million in benefits for the veterans who have utilized it; that alone has led the surrounding community to be more supportive and welcoming of the program.

"The majority of the money we've helped them obtain has been spent in the community," Switzer said.

Community members who wish to help the program can do so easily by donating gift cards, in denominations between $25-$50, to big box stores like Fred Meyer, Walmart or Target.

"Sometimes we get veterans who have their kids with them and we cannot always find a place to house them right away, since Building 9 cannot. However, providing something to cover incidental expenses from gas to food to diapers can really help them to survive," he said.

Donations can be sent to Building 9 for Veterans, ?P.O. Box 8175,?Port Orchard, WA 98366.

That being said, Building 9 is currently working on expanding its services and developing a building on the Veterans Home campus, which can house veterans who are also custodial parents, as well as their children.

There is a short waitlist for Building 9 most of the time, but it is only three of four people deep and typically for less than 30 days. Veterans normally stay between 8 to 14 months, but there is a maximum limit of 24 months and all residents must show movement and be intent on improving.

"As good as we are, we can't make this happen for them," Switzer said. "We have had failures but most of the times their lives are changed so significantly that they are married to us and we stay connected."

For more information on eligibility or to apply, call 800.562.2308 or visit

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