For Homeless Veterans, a REACHable Goal



In March, the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) launched Project REACH with Jon Bon Jovi and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to put information about local homelessness resources into the hands of people who can help others in need.  We’re excited to announce the finalists today. They come from across the country, from Forest Hills, New York, to Kihei, Hawaii.  Their prototype mobile apps will compete for the $25,000 grand prize. Throughout the first round of competition, the REACH community moved us with their passion, creativity, and hard work on behalf of Veterans.

The finalists competed hard against a high bar and a tight timeline. They pulled all-nighters and all-weekenders; one finalized their submission while on vacation in the mountains of West Virginia.  Another finalist is donating the prize award to the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation and the EOD Memorial Foundation.  We have another whose son, an already skilled coder, will join the next phase of this contest as a service project.

During phase two of Project REACH, finalists compete for the grand prize by piloting their mobile applications at JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where diners can cover the cost of their meals either through donation or volunteering.  The apps currently focus on Monmouth County, but REACH’s ultimate goal is a mobile app that allows anybody to locate points of service such as health clinics, food kitchens, or shelters with automatically updated availability, regardless of which city they’re in.

VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould, Mr. Bon Jovi, and HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones announced the finalists today at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Data Initiative Forum in Washington D.C.

Congratulations, finalists, and good luck in phase two!

REACH Finalists

Finalist #1

Leads:  Robert Damashek, Corey Brown
Organization:  Binary Group
Location:  Arlington, VA

Finalist #2

Leads: John McCarthy
Location: Forest Hills, NY

Finalist #3

Leads: Jessi Schoenleber, Joe Nicosia
Organization: JJAppCo, LLC
Location: Manchester, NJ

Finalist #4

Leads: Joshua Temkin and Jim Homer
Organization: Qbase
Location: Reston, VA

Finalist #5

Leads: Mike McDougall
Organization: Makani Kai Tech
Location: Kihei, Hawaii

Jonah J. Czerwinski is a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Director of the VA Innovation Initiative.

Peter L. Levin is a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Chief Technology Officer.

Author

Jonah Czerwinski and Peter Levin

Comments

  1. Zendy Zenders    

    How many homeless Vets have smartphones?

    1. Zendy Zenders    

      Who would be the primary users of this app non-Veteran wise

    2. MIKE BERLINER    

      How many homeless Vets have any kind of phone?
      Can’t wait till the VA goes totally paperless, think about all the money the VA
      will save since they won’t have to interact with Veterans any more.

    3. Mike McDougall    

      The app is not necessarily for homeless to use directly although it can be accessed over the web at a public library for example. The target user is a caregiver to the homeless. The idea is that someone that volunteers at a soup kitchen could help refer someone in need to the right resource. The goal is to make a national platform however the apps can be used to check for shelter bed availability in NJ today. Access can be broadened via an SMS text interface that would return the bed availability via a simple text message.

    4. Sheriss Nilson    

      The application is not for veterans, it’s for social workers, mental health specialists, and other professionals that work with and help homeless veterans. The application is designed to organize resources for them to find on behalf of the veteran.

  2. Gary Lloyd    

    The state of Florida offers Nothing for a Homeless VET, I have been out of work since March 2012 and have finally become BROKE and will soon be kicked from the home I am renting and no one cares in Florida, I can not afford my Medication, eating 25 cent soups 4 times a day and just not sure where to go now that I have exhausted every place locally in Spring Hill Florida. Too bad nothing could be accomplished in this century, looks like we are doing this for next century. I say bring the trrops home and let each american fight for thier own freedom. I can’t get a job since employers are asking for “Real Job Experience” and not considering our military time as real experience.

    1. MIKE BERLINER    

      Gary: Try seeking help at your local VET CENTER. or Go to your nearest VA hospital and ask to see a social worker or go to your County Office of Veterans Services and ask to see a VSO
      Don’t give up, there is help out there, the hardest part is finding it.
      Also check out the new VRAP program on VA.GOV – see the article on the right side of this screen dated May 31st
      Good Luck Brother

    2. Chris Rogers    

      Gary,

      Brother I feel your pain I too have been out of work since July 2011 but through the grace of God things have worked out and are still improving. I would also suggest that you reach out to your local VFW organizations too many Vets believe that they must be members of the VFW before they will assist you but if the Post is truly a good Post and doing their duty they will assist any Vet in their time of need as long as it is within their means.

      The VFW motto is “Veterans helping Veterans and their families!” and we at our small post in Moore, Oklahoma live by this creed! The brothers and sisters in our post all chip in to help when help is needed by one of our Vets, a Fallen Soldiers family, or their widow and/or children. So don’t give up there are many of folks out there who will gladly help out a Vet. Best Wishes, God’s Speed and may the blessings of all Veteran around reach you and bright your life.

      Here are the VFW Posts in your area of Spring Hill, Florida with their last known addresses and phone numbers.

      VFW Post 8681
      18940 Drayton Street
      Spring Hill, FL 34610
      (727) 856-5742

      VFW Post 10209
      14736 Edward R. Noll Drive
      Spring Hill, FL 34609
      (352) 796-0398

      VetSuccess is a NEW Jobs initiative website for Veterans that may help you find some meaningful and rewarding work both mentally and financially…

      https://va-csm.symplicity.com/students/index.php?s=home

      1. retteL    

        Great advice, lets hope GAary follows through.

  3. Delores    

    Gary
    also try this lady I know she is not in your state ; however she is willing to help, she is really nice.
    Allison Ulrich

    Contract Housing Specialist

    HUD-VASH Program

    VA Palo Alto Health Care System

    795 Willow Road (180D)

    Menlo Park, CA 94025

    Phone: (650) 493-5000, ext. 27335

  4. Cindy Kureth    

    Can my son and I get some help until we receive his Social Security check on June 20? We have been homeless for 16 months and being unemployed and a Veteran’s widow, we are nothing less than at the bottom of the barrel. We are staying at the Econolodge in Colonial Heights, VA and cannot pay or weekly bill of $238.00 until June 20. I have inquired to Army Community Service, the VA and the Army Emergency Relief, but to no avail. We don’t have any money will have to sleep in the car during my son’s last week of school. I am also a Veteran and am willing and able to work; I have applied to many positions, but so far, no calls! Thank you!

    1. retteL    

      GO TO YOUR NEAREST VA, VFW, AMERICAN LEGION, OR ANY OTHER CHARTER ORGANIZATION. BETTER YET FIND YOUR NEAREST VETERAN SERVICE OFFICE AND HAVE THEM TO CONTACT THE LOCAL VA HUDVASH REPRESENTATIVE AS WELL AS A SOCIAL WORKER WHO WILL GET THE BALL ROLLING FOR YOU. YOU CAN ALSO CHECK OUT YOUR COUNTY VETERAN ASSOCIATION, VETERAN UNEMPLOYMENT REPRESENTATIVE. MOREOVER, SEE A COUNSELOR QUICKLY THEY ALSO ARE PERSISTENT ABOUT GETTING YOU HELP. THE PROBLEM IS YOU MUST PURSUE THIS WITH DILIGENTLY AND HUMBLY.

  5. A    

    How can a homeless vet, that can not afford a cell, use a mobile app to locate services? Let’s get a in touch with reality.

  6. Rox    

    Wow, it seems no matter what the VA does for us vets (I am a vet also), some vets are still so unbelieveably ungratiful! What can that government do that would make u ungrateful vets happy and shut up and say thank you for anything they do for you (and me). I have never seen more whinney ungrateful people (men) in my life!

    I am vet and service connected and I work for the government. And I am still grateful for everything the VA has done for me, everything! What company could you work for and still receive benefits for, for the rest of your life!!!!!!! Without taking them to court which costs money and years to get half of what the VA gives to us!! Come on!

    If you don’t like what the VA gives us, does for us, is still doing for us then shut up and don’t use their service. Go get a job and then see what they won’t do for you after you have worked for their for 4 years or whatever you did in the military and then whin some more.

    1. jay    

      Congratulations ROX, you must be one of the lucky few that has that benefit. I was always grateful for what the VA has done for me, until they tried to pull a fast one and start pulling my disability rating, because their C&P examiners are inexperienced and have no relative military experience to understand a veteran that has been around the world more than once. The stories of veterans seem to be too fantastic for them, yet they are the ones that use neuropsychological tests to dismiss the veteran with PTSD. It seems that when compensation is involved every veteran is a liar and that holds true in their ability to dismiss a traumatic event as an exaggeration.
      Rox only if you understood the truth about your system that you are so proud of. The Quantitative stance compared to a Qualitative one, only hinders the ability to achieve total success in the system that you adore. I for one am tired of being a number, and when the numbers are tallied up, they figure that would be the most beneficial to their organization not the veteran. I understand I have been on both ends of the spectrum, and what I figured out is that when it comes to help, they will only help once they put you in a database and label you as a number and then check up on you once a month, but as soon as you call, we all get the run around. I don’t mind being promised something, but don’t think for once I am an idiot. I hate being lied too, and I hate empty promises. All the counselors are great at getting the info, but none of them know how to implement it and that is a problem. What good is a program if nobody can utilize it or even know how to get it rolling? Like I said Rox good for you, you just happened to fit the bill, and offered another service that is irrelevant. What will happen when you don’t have enough vets in your program? I believe you will be shut down, and when that happens tell us how you feel…

    2. Aubrey El    

      Well maybe you would feel different if you didn’t have your government job and service connected benefits. Most of the people complaining are those who have been promised help and have received nothing.

    3. retteL    

      Rox, I appreciate your position and I am completely grateful and honored that you have been bless to be service connected and working for the government. However, Rox it is not easy for some veterans, you must be humbling and placed yourself in their shoes, particularly those who are poor, homeless, and suffering. Realized the circumstances before you tell a veteran that they are whinny. Actually, they have earned the right to be whinny as well as yourself. Now tell me you don’t whine about anything? I would not go as far to say they are ungrateful, but I will say that the few who are, does not outweigh the few who are patient and humbling to say the least. Now, here is something for you to ponder and think about. You stated you work for the government and is service connected drawing good benefits and the company is not taking out your service-connected payments out of your government check, correct. So therefore, you are making good money and has made quite an investment. I take it though that you are not retired and does not know that a retiree can work for his military giving everything including sacrifices only to find out that whatever they get or is entitled to in terms of his/her service connection will be taking out from their military retirement. Therefore, a retiree is paying his or her own service connected disability compensation. The retiree must be one time 50% or higher in order for the VA to not take this money. How many retirees do you know that are rated at 50% the first time around. Most retirees whether combat vets or not are rated less than 50%. In addition, Rox, do you know about HR333 and concurrent receipt, HR303 & S344? You are absolutely blessed that you can draw a service connection compensation and your government check all at the same time without any laws or concurrent receipt. The quality of service you have received is quite humbling and worth telling you congratulations, you are the exception. Perhaps you can share with others veteran as to how you obtain the benefits you so rightfully deserved and maybe you helping them, could result in one less whinny veteran.

      Seek, instead to help other veterans.

  7. MAK    

    I LIVE IN ILLINOIS AND HOPEFULLY WILL MOVE OUT OF THIS HORRIBLE STATE, NO DECENT JOBS/PAY. I AM BEHIND ON RENT AND UTILITIES. I WAS TOLD IN ORDER FOR THE VA TO HELP KEEP MY APARTMENT WAS TO BE SIGNED UP FOR VA HEALTH CARE WHICH I WAS BEFORE, SO I ATTEMPTED TO REJOIN IT. THEY HAVE NO INFO ON ME? YET I WAS AT A VA CLINIC A FEW YEARS AGO BEFORE AND STILL HAVE THE SAME VA CARD. I CALLED ALL OVER INCLUDING WASHINGTON D.C WHO REFERRED ME TO THE SAME MAN IN CHICAGO WHO’S VOICE MSG SAID HE WAS NOT TAKING ANY MORE CALLS BECAUSE HE WAS SWAMPED. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS RUN AROUND?? I WOULD RATHER WORK THAN ASK FOR HELP, BUT WHAT IS SOMEONE TO DO WHEN YOU TRY EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN. SINCE I HAD BEEN DISCHARGED WITH AN HONORABLE DISCHARGE, I HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST FOR BEING A VET, LIED TO, AND PUSHED ASIDE BY FELLOW VA ORGANIZATIONS. I WAS TOLD WHEN I GOT OUT, THAT I QUIT MY JOB IN THE SERVICE AND NOT ELIGIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT AND OTHER VA BENEFITS. THAT’S FINE, WHO CARES RIGHT???

    1. retteL    

      Mak, find a qualified and competent veteran service officer who is willing to stay on the roller coaster with you until you have exhausted all the avenues va have set forth. Are you elgible for a non-service connected pension?
      Better yet call this number, 608-256-1901 and ask for elgibility and explain your situation in its entirety, I guarantee you, you will get the help you need in completing your 1010EZR. You will find some of the same obstacles perhaps in another state…wait until you get on health care here at then think about moving. If you are about to lose your home please go to your County Service Organization and if cook county is not willing to assist you, try another county like winnebago, will, stephenson, or kane. These charters organizations may be able to assist you as well- Your local VFW, AML and DAV’s.
      Someone should be able to take responsibility to get up from their desk and go and talk with a veteran.

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