Blackfeet Veterans Alliance Director Leo Pollock shows off one of the kitchens inside a temporary housing unit aimed at returning Veterans. The temporary housing units near Blackfeet Community Hospital come complete with an outdoor barbecue as well as many creature comforts for returning Veterans.Landscaping and such are on the menu for the four housing units destined to serve returning Veterans as they transition to civilian life.

What began as a plan to provide temporary housing for folks needing to be isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into an opportunity for Veterans to work their way back into civilian life on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Blackfeet Veterans Alli-ance Director Leo Pollock explained the Blackfeet Tribe and Incident Command purchased four self-contained trailers from a company in Canada as temporary isolation units when COVID-19 broke out nationally. However, as the pandemic subsided and vaccines were administered to the vast majority of Reservation residents, the trailers began to be seen as an answer to Veterans returning after having served their country.

“Even now, Veterans go back to living with their grandparents or mom and dad, especially those who are single,” Leo said. “It’s kind of a culture shock where they’ve been independent and now they’re back to living like a little kid.”

Finding employment post-service can be challenging as well, he noted, depending on the type of training received during their time in the military. “Some skills translate well,” he said, “like leadership skills – that translates well to any job.”

The trailers themselves are located near Blackfeet Community Hospital.

“We will be looking for help to create an improved road into the units and create better groundwork around the trailers,” he said, “as well as having stoops or handicap ramps installed to create a safer handicap accessible residence. We will also look to have a security fence established around the premises.”

The trailers are fully furnished and come complete with an outdoor barbecue, stove, refrigerator and two flat-screen TVs. All that is needed for a Veteran to move in would be clothing, pots and pans and dishes. The trailers are set up as duplexes so the four units can house up to eight Veterans at a time.

And as Leo emphasizes, the aim is to put Vets on a path toward homeownership, using the dwellings as a stepping stone to accumulate capital in a secure situation.

“This will give us time to better understand what assistance will be available to Veterans from Manpower as well as any other Veteran Affairs programs,” he said. “We will slowly transition when feasible to having Veterans Affairs assist us in transitioning from a Blackfeet Housing voucher to using the Tribal HUD-VASH vouchers to continue with rental assistance. As we continue to find viable means to support our Veterans, we will also be working with programs to find permanent housing solutions for our Blackfeet Veterans.”

At present, Leo and the Veterans Alliance are building a list of eligible Veterans and have received some questions about the project. At the same time, they are wrapping up details around the units to make them entirely ready for occupancy – from completing small projects to arranging insurance. 

Vouchers from Blackfeet Housing and later from HUD VASH monies will pay the rent on the units for the Veterans, leaving them only responsible for utilities and food.

“Rent will be used to pay for the maintenance, upkeep, beautification of the area for our tenants and assist with on-site staffing needs,” Leo said. “Utilities will be responsibility of the tenant. However, we will work with the Tribal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to assist them in keeping the cost of utilities down.”

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