Partnering with VA to help homeless Veterans: How community groups can make a difference


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Joel Beach had been living in his car for two months when he met Shawn Dowling, his local VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans program coordinator. Dowling introduced Beach to Ken Leslie, founder of the VA partner organization Veterans Matter, and within a week, Beach had an apartment.

“This place is awesome,” Beach said of his new apartment. “It feels good to do laundry and take showers — the basics — again.”

For Beach and other formerly homeless Veterans, housing is more than a roof over their heads — it is one major step toward a better life. Veterans can and do become homeless for many different reasons, such as a move to an area with more expensive housing, service-related trauma that leads to issues like substance use, or the loss of a job. Through VA and its range of community partners, homeless Veterans are housed and then given access to the specific resources they need to stay housed so that they can achieve their full potential.

The video below highlights just a few of the dedicated partners that VA has worked with through the years.

“Find out first what the Veterans really need,” said Veterans Matter’s Ken Leslie, “then fill that need — and then you’ll have a perfect formula to be able to serve the people we’re trying to serve.”

When Leslie discovered in 2012 that Veterans in his area were having trouble getting into permanent housing because they could not afford the rental deposits, he knew he had to help. In just 11 days, Leslie turned that idea into a nonprofit called Veterans Matter, raised over $26,000, and helped 35 homeless Veterans move into VA supportive housing. Fast forward to today and Veterans Matter has housed over 1,500 Veterans in 14 states.

But the need for support does not stop once a formerly homeless Veteran has a place to stay. Many Veterans exiting homelessness do not have the means to purchase basic necessities or furniture for their new homes when they move in. Recognizing this need, the faith-based nonprofit Military Outreach USA decided to partner with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center to provide Veterans in the surrounding area of Chicago with these everyday items.

“An apartment isn’t a home until they have some items to make it comfortable,” said Laurie Boskovitch, a VA HUD-VASH case manager who works with Military Outreach USA. Because of Military Outreach USA’s partnership with VA, Trevor Hathcock, a formerly homeless Veteran, now has towels, cleaning supplies, and other necessities for his apartment.

“Having your own place and being on your own again makes you feel worthwhile. Like I used to feel, you know,” said Hathcock.

Once Veterans are comfortably housed, it’s time for other community partners and VA programs and services to help them get back on their feet so that they don’t slip into homelessness again. Organizations like Salute Mission Critical offer Veterans job training as well as assistance finding and keeping a job. Lee Kirby and Jason Okroy founded Salute Mission Critical to get Veterans connected to jobs in the data center industry — where Veterans’ unique skills are particularly relevant — and since then, they have helped more than 500 Veterans enter the field.

“Our partnership with the VA homeless program has been phenomenal,” said Sonda Kolodzinski, director of operations for Salute Mission Critical. “Working with [our VA Community Employment Coordinator], we’ve been able to fill roles for our clients with individuals who blossom.”

With help from these partners and many more at the federal, state, and community levels, VA’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness have resulted in a nearly 50 percent reduction in the number of homeless Veterans between 2010 and 2016. In 2015 alone, the number decreased by 17 percent.

“For any organization that’s focused on helping homeless Veterans, only by coming together in partnership with the VA and all of the other community collaborators can we really solve this problem nationwide,” Ken Leslie said. “As regular Americans, we’re able to rally with the VA to help people who’ve risked all, for all of us.”

If you are interested in partnering with VA to become part of the solution, get more information and resources here.


Jesse K. VazzanoJesse K. Vazzano, LICSW, serves as the national director of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) for the Veterans Health Administration.  HUD-VASH provides Housing Choice Vouchers, from HUD, and wrap-around case management and supportive services, from VA, to homeless Veterans and their families, with emphasis on the chronically homeless.

 

 

Image of EileenEileen Devine is a licensed clinical social worker and the national director for Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV). The HCHV program’s core mission is outreach and engagement to homeless Veterans. This is accomplished through HCHV’s Community Resource and Referral Centers (CRRCs), HCHV outreach workers, the HCHV Contract Residential Services Programs, as well as Low-Demand Safe Haven Programs and homeless Stand Downs.

 

 

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VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. Mary McGowan    

    Not sure if this is getting to “Secy David Shulkin”..As I set here watching you on Fox News talking about vets. Sir, there is a vet living in Cottonwood Alabama who will soon be homeless because he can’t pay his rent. Also this man had his trash can picked up because he couldn’t pay for trash pickup any longer. Sir, So many of our friends and families voted for Trump for one main thing TAKING CARE OF VETS FIRST, then knocking down everything to do with OBAMA. I am an employee of a Hospice office . We go to different places in our area to do special things for our elderly. This is how we found out about this vet. Please if there is anything you can do to help this vet let me know and I will get a signed release form” due to hippa” with this vets name and how you could contact him with any help that you may do for him. Thank you so much and God bless to all.

  2. Michael Johnson    

    I am not exactly homeless , I do have a 7×14′ cargo trailer to live in , have been without any income since Jan 2013 , being 60 , not many people want to hire you , Vet or not , I am a veteran btw , it would be nice to have a reliable source of power to run an a/c unit to keep cool during these hot summer days , there is no power coming to my property , what power I have comes from some solar panels and some batteries , there is enough power for lights , the tv for the morning weather news , a small 1 cubic fridge and/or play a movie or two when there is enough usable sun light to charge up my batteries. What I was wondering , is there a program somewhere ( I live in Vian , OK ) that can help me get this power now or do I need to wait until I have an income to pay the monthly bill before such a program can help me ? My full SS benefits will not be available for another 6 years , early reduced benefits will be in 2 years. Thank You for any information and help.

  3. Paul Chunglo Jr    

    I’ve been a homeless Veteran on and off for the last 3 years and so far the only help I’ve received has been from privately owned and volunteer operated Services. The HUD VASH tells me that there are no more vouchers available. I’ve been to three different counties and have been told the same thing. The first one that told me that also said that I was in the system and put on a waiting list. Well that was almost three years ago and I’m back in that County and when I checked to see where I was on the list I found out I wasnt in the system or on any list!! I guess thsts why I never received a call from them. How many others were dropped from the list and removed from the system? Good luck to all the others like myself.
    Homeless In CA.

  4. Juan Villavicencio    

    Might need help been homeless for a year.

  5. Jeff Harrison    

    It would be helpful to know where and who to contact in our areas to lend a hand and volunteer to help out.

  6. Eugene c Thompson    

    I too was put on waiting list.
    They tell me three to seven year wait.
    This is my third year of bouncing around, ran out of friends.
    Got called one time, but had no money for security, besides that my va pension was too small to cover rental cost.
    I’m thankful I eat twice a day but sure would be nice to have a place to call home.
    I would move anywhere in the country for that.
    Happy fourth fellow vets!
    Semper Fi,
    E. C. Thompson,NH

  7. Sergeant Marek    

    Every major city, suburb & surrounding town OR should I say, “Every Civilian… knowing of a homeless Veteran &/OR a Veteran… that knows or has seen a Brother or sister standing on the side of a road” in the US needs to… Rally up & get the city government officials & those in the major VA Hospitals, Clinics & major Veterans associations: VFW, AMERICAN LEGION, AM-VETS, MILITARY ORDER OF THE PURPLE HEART etc. to WORK together… giving these Veterans HOPE, LOVE, KINDNESS… a place to live… a run down apartment complex, that they can fix up, with the help of a few tools & paint. AND/OR a job at a VA… even doing the simplest of tasks… for minimum pay. At least it gives them something to do, work toward & be productive so, they can be a part of the American Way again…..

    JUST A THOUGHT…
    US Army, medically retired in ’06
    because of an IED attack in ’05, Al Dora, Baghdad, Iraq
    Staff Sergeant Marek

  8. Lynn L Moore    

    This is totally unacceptable that our veteran’s, men and women who volunteered (or were drafted) to serve our country would even find themselves in this position. I am a female veteran from the 70’s, 60 years old and having to stay in a private place at the moment until I can save enough money to get a place of my own again, at 60. I don’t understand how our government can afford to help people from other countries before taking care of their own? I am fortunate enough to be enrolled in a program at my local VA Hospital that gives me a meager stipend for 4 months, which along with my Widow’s Disability Benefits is enough to get me by for now, but at the end of that 4 months, then what? Age discrimination is a big problem for those of us in our sixties, of course the easiest out for them is to tell you that you are over qualified. Our government should do more to protect our veterans to ensure they are able to live out the rest of their lives with dignity and this is simply not the case. More could, and should, be done.

  9. Russell Landry    

    Pray in the name of Jesus, like you prayed before whatever mission you were assigned. The LORD of Heaven & Earth did not die, cease to exist, or become non-existent, just because Americans deny the existence of an Eternal One, spinning a rock in mid space that has Life on it. Foolishness of preaching Truth still brings Salvation to those who call upon the LORD, despite human error space rocketing itself to Mars, in hopes to escape the pollution produced here on Earth, by human error. Native Americans migrated seasonally, allowing the grounds time to restore naturally. Here in West Texas, the Cowards are not concern53rd with Environmental Ecologic Impact against h7man Life or against Nature.

  10. Rick S. Vourganas    

    I am a disabled vet that has been blessed. How can I be a “meaningful” part to help my veteren brothers and sisters and those that have served to help keep us free.

    Please contact me as soon as you possibly can.

    Warmest regards,

    Rick V.

  11. Tim Weeden MMC(SW) USN Ret    

    I’m a member of American Legion Post 112 in North Charleston, SC. On 14 July we provided the Color Guard for the Grand Opening of “Patriots Villa” in North Charleston. We want to continue help in this project for homeless Veterans in our area. Who can we communicate with about the specific needs they may need as new arrivals to Patriots Villa?

  12. John Thomas Clarke    

    I wouldn’t think my first rank promotion got me paid, it got me stronger, a vet in need in the US, is most assuredly waiting your help.during war it’s called troop support and it’s a minimum of $500,i said so, Sergeant first class, john Clarke army/marines.

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