Helping homeless veterans: a renewed focus

The topic of homeless veterans has been on our minds recently, perhaps due to a recent column on the topic in the Orlando Sentinel.  Columnist Scott Maxwell’s sobering words about why veterans deserve extra attention, how our country treats them, and how many are homeless, etc., really impacted us. The truth be known, the subject is never too far away from the thought process at the Coalition, particularly from those who staff our Men’s Pavilion.

We were therefore happy to read a brief from the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) titled Five Strategies for Building a Successful Relationship with Your Local VA.

The brief states that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Eric Shinseki, has committed to ending homelessness among veterans in five years and each local VA Medical Center has been asked to create and implement its own five year plan for ending veteran homelessness.  This has resulted in a renewed focus on creating strong partnerships between VA Medical Centers and local homelessness assistance systems to coordinate strategies and maximize resources.  

We are thrilled about this renewed focus and are very interested in the five promising strategies to strengthen the relationship between homeless assistance systems (i.e. homeless service providers such as the Coalition) and their local VA Medical Center.  The strategies, each described in the full brief, are: 

  • Bring VA staff into the community and the larger homelessness assistance system;
  • Make ending veteran homelessness a local priority;
  • Increase transparency and cooperation;
  • Help VA staff whenever possible through sharing resources and knowledge; and
  • Build political will.

This information comes at a good time for the Coalition as we move forward to construct and operate our replacement Men’s Service Center, a residential facility for 250 homeless men. We are excitedly planning for a summer 2011 ground breaking!  Our goal for this new facility is to provide access to a full range of case-managed services for men with a variety of needs, such as veterans’ services.  In fact, we are planning 40 beds dedicated to veterans. 

Current on-site partners Orange County Public Schools LifeStrides adult education program, Goodwill Industries and Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare will continue to provide services for clients in the new facility; and we are working to develop partnerships with other potential providers, such as the VA. 

These five strategies can only help us realize our vision!