To answer the national call to end Veteran homelessness, a collaboration of government agencies, housing providers, nonprofit agencies, and businesses joined forces in a one-day housing blitz, Wednesday, Jan. 18 at United Way of Central Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Veteran Experience Office, working with the Birmingham VA Medical Center and key community leaders, coordinated the effort to remove barriers and house Veterans within their community, so they are not forced to live on the streets.
“It is my desire to create a forum for a collective impact for these partners to not only house Veterans, but also provide other resources to ensure a supportive transition from homelessness,” said Paula Stokes, a Veteran Experience relationship manager for VA.
During the one-day event called “Operation Reveille,” Veterans met with representatives from housing authorities, landlords, and utility companies, received financial and legal assistance to overcome any housing obstacles, and received household and hygiene items as well as gift cards for food from community supporters to help them transition from homelessness.
“The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District is privileged to lend our support in securing decent homes for our veterans,” said Michael Lundy, president and CEO of the Housing Authority Birmingham District. “This is just the beginning as we work with our partners to expand opportunities for our Veterans. These men and women have risked their lives to serve and protect our country. They stood up for us, and now we are here to stand up for them.”
Veterans worked with VA’s Homeless Program and other supportive services in preparation to connect with participating partners and other community supporters to help them transition from homelessness.
The ultimate goals of the event included rapidly housing homeless Veterans, collaborating with community partners, and developing a system of service to ensure Veterans are not forced to sleep on the streets in Birmingham or surrounding areas.
Thomas Smith, director of the Birmingham VA Medical Center, said he continues to appreciate the many public and private partners who made this event happen for Veterans in Birmingham. Operation Reveille enabled almost all of the Veterans in attendance to receive the support and resources they needed to select housing and begin their exit from homelessness. Five Veterans moved in to new housing on the day of the event and 17 were pending the final move-in process.
While the event was a planned one-day surge, the larger goal is to develop collaborative relationships within the community and attract more partners that have the ability to help Veterans secure housing.
The Veteran Experience Office and the Community Veteran Engagement Boards are great sources to engage local communities in efforts like Operation Reveille. These individuals and groups may contact their local VA Homeless staff and/or learn information about the VA Homeless Programs by visiting the website: www.va.gov/homeless.