Coming Home VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA’S CAMPAIGN FOR VETERANS
Highly trained engineers and infantrymen, artillery specialists and pilots, mechanics and nurses — the men and women of America’s armed forces — have fought for freedom in the world’s most dangerous places, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Kandahar. When they return home after years spent in harm’s way, our veterans want a home of their own, the support of their loved ones and the ability to earn a decent living. For tens of thousands of veterans, that is a dream deferred. After multiple deployments, veterans are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with a host of mental and physical injuries. Too many follow a downward trajectory that ends in homelessness. Already the government estimates that almost 63,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Projections put more than one million more veterans at risk for homelessness. At the same time, older veterans need help to stay in their homes as they age. e situation demands innovative intervention and sophisticated supportive services that focus on the family as well as the veteran.
DOWN IS NOT OUT.
We understand much about the underlying problems of veterans, and we learn more every day about what works to support them in building healthy civilian lives. Increasingly, the many governmental and private agencies serving veterans acknowledge that solving their often complex problems requires a strong partnership. VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA IS UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO HELP.
Qualified both by mission and experience to address the problems of veterans, we have a vision, a plan and the people to deliver on our promise. Over the next five years, we have pledged to raise $10 million to give back to those veterans who have given so much to America. With philanthropic support, we will succeed.
“We are seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation among federal agencies working with Veterans Aﬀairs. e federal government is saying openly that only a partnership of the public sector and nonprofits can solve the complex problems leading to chronic homelessness. Together we can honor veterans with the support they deserve.” mike king, Volunteers of America National President 2
Deciphering a Complex Challenge MANY THREATS FACING AMERICA’S VETERANS are treatable, solvable or
even preventable. All are unacceptable. But before we can solve the problem, we need to understand it. A MULTI-LAYERED CHALLENGE
Veterans of diﬀerent generations, conflicts and genders experience diﬀerent problems. We must confront all of them simultaneously. • Vietnam vets are aging — the number over 85 will double in the next decade — and they will need long-term care services and programs to help them age in place and mitigate the health problems that have been intensified by their military service.
• anks to medical advances, today’s soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan often survive serious injuries, but the long-term consequences are still emerging. Repeated tours of duty could mean more debilitations and more diﬃcult re-integration. Transitioning back to civilian life often requires diﬀerent job skills than those they possess. • More women are serving in combat. e percentage of female veterans is expected to nearly double by 2033, and having mothers deployed and separated from their families puts their children at risk as well. In addition to combat-related trauma, some women veterans also experience sexual abuse while in service, which heightens their risk for homelessness.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Too many veterans live with the lingering eﬀects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, conditions compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Others have complex medical issues demanding multiple hospitalizations. ese challenges, if left unaddressed, could lead to homelessness. Secure housing may be the first step to stabilization, but it is far from the last. Shelter spells survival, but veterans can only attain self-suﬃciency with social support. Often, it can be a long road back.
Other, more external factors also have a significant impact on homelessness among veterans. Federal housing policy, which changed during the 1980s, has had the unintended consequence of lowering the availability of aﬀordable and public housing. As a result, veterans spend a higher proportion of their income on rent and have a harder time finding homes. is propels more veterans into homelessness.
Volunteers of America: Reaching Veterans Where ey Live
FLORIDA: MOBILE OUTREACH
NORTHERN ROCKIES: PATRIOTISM AND RESPECT
Many of Florida’s nearly 9,000 homeless veterans choose to live “oﬀ the grid” in the Everglades, or in wilderness refuges, forests and barrier islands. Their plight inspired Volunteers of America of Florida to create a 40-foot Mobile Service Center to oﬀer medical, dental and mental-health services in remote areas. Since 1999, it has served as many as 200 homeless veterans monthly and oﬀered disaster relief after ﬁve hurricanes. “Our goal is not to make the veterans come out of the woods, but to be sure they know what is available to them so they can make that choice,” says Kathy Spearman, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Florida. Volunteers of America’s Mobile Service Center is nearing the end of its useful life. But it has been a lifeline for people like Marvin, who have gone on to obtain stable housing. With donor support, Volunteers of America of Florida will obtain a new mobile clinic to expand its outreach, helping increasingly inﬁrm veterans no longer able to withstand life in the wilds move to subsidized housing and regain control of their lives.
A community ethic of patriotism and respect for military service enables Volunteers of America, Northern Rockies to turn around the lives of distressed veterans. Mike, who today holds a full-time job at the VA Medical Center in Sheridan, Wyoming, got housing and transitional assistance from Volunteers of America, Northern Rockies, overcoming four years of homelessness due to mental health challenges experienced after 23 years of active duty. The number of homeless veterans in Wyoming and Montana swells in the summer as many attempt to live “oﬀ the grid” along the Yellowstone River. Outreach to these veterans helps them survive and move to shelter as the region’s bitterly cold winters set in. The organization stabilizes each veteran with food and clothing, and helps them obtain their beneﬁts, such as medical care and housing. “The numbers don’t matter out here,” says Jeﬀ Holsinger, president and CEO of Volunteers of America, Northern Rockies. “One veteran or a thousand — it is the reality of the individual that touches folks.” In a challenging terrain with sparse settlement and a high cost of living, donor support allows Volunteers of America, Northern Rockies to help veterans come in from the cold.
GREATER LOS ANGELES: URBAN VETERANS
COLORADO BRANCH: WOMEN VETERANS
Living in a tent by Long Beach Airport and battling an addiction to methamphetamine, Greg, a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt trapped. Sobriety, a prerequisite for most veterans’ support programs, can feel like an impossible goal to veterans who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Greg, now working toward a social work degree, turned his life around after being discharged from jail in 2010 into Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles’ Hollywood Veterans Center. There, he beneﬁted from the organization’s “low-barrier” approach to recovery, which doesn’t penalize veterans for lapses in sobriety, and which ﬁlls a critical gap in veterans’ services created by abstinence requirements. More than 3,500 veterans annually receive assistance at Greater Los Angeles’ 11 outreach and residential programs in Los Angeles County, where an estimated 10,000 veterans are homeless. Donations will help expand access to the low-barrier program, which currently has a year-long wait list. “We are also seeking philanthropic support to expand a new program to prevent homelessness and addiction among recent returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Bob Pratt, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles. “If we invest now, we can prevent decades of personal tragedy.”
Six-year-old Teah skipped into the ﬁrst room she could call her own at Clermont House in Denver, a new transitional home for women veterans built by Volunteers of America Colorado Branch. Her mother, Betty, an Army veteran, says, “This gives me a place to just be quiet after all these years.” In the aftermath of military sexual trauma and domestic violence, she has struggled for 30 years with homelessness, alcoholism and addiction. Veterans like Betty are often reluctant to receive services or housing among men, whose presence triggers traumatic memories. She is emblematic of an emerging, sizeable cohort of veterans in need of women-only supports. “The idea of receiving mental health services in groups that include men is oﬀ-putting,” says Amy Mitchell, manager of veterans services for Volunteers of America Colorado Branch. In response, the organization has expanded the housing it oﬀers women veterans and their children. Through a combination of philanthropy and public funding, Volunteers of America Colorado Branch will be able to build two new homes next to Clermont House in 2012, providing transitional housing to 24 women veterans and their children.
Uniquely Qualified to Assist Veterans IT IS HARD TO THINK ABOUT TOMORROW when survival is, literally,
a day-to-day occupation. When the most important goal in your life is a cot and a hot shower, how can you contemplate job training? en just imagine how impossible it is for a female veteran who is a victim of military sexual trauma in the past to seek shelter in close proximity to men, let alone trust them as neighbors or employers. Volunteers of America meets America’s veterans where they are. We hand out sleeping bags and snow boots in the Northern Rockies and scout the Everglades for veterans living in abandoned boats, giving veterans what they need, from flu shots and HIV testing to transitional housing and job training. Since 1896, Volunteers of America has worked with society’s most intractable problems. We serve more than 2 million individuals in more than 400 communities. One of the largest suppliers of aﬀordable housing in the United States, we have, since World War I, also provided direct services to veterans and connected them to other organizations that can help.
More than 10,000 veterans annually through housing assistance, employment and supportive services delivered in 46 cities — from Los Angeles, California, to Biddeford, Maine. Veterans themselves use a variety of words to describe the Volunteers of America experience: Accepting. Committed. Caring. Lifesaving. Quiet. Calm. Trusted. Each community develops a set of services and programs tailored for its location; defining the gaps and filling them according to local need is a key part of our strength and eﬀectiveness.
Volunteers of America’s support helps veterans overcome the barriers that stand between them and a stable, secure life. Our housing units provide case management services for veterans and families; many cities support outreach centers where veterans can receive treatment for PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and addictions. We make sure veterans connect to the benefits they are entitled to, and we make use of the strong bonds forged between veterans by incorporating mentoring and peer-to-peer support.
WE OFFER: HOUSING FIRST
EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING
Medical and social service providers believe the only sure way to give at-risk veterans eﬀective, consistent access to care is to house them first. Every night, we give veterans emergency shelter and, when they are ready, provide transitional and even permanent housing. And we do housing our way, building and refurbishing units that respect individual privacy yet foster the sense of community so important to those who served in military units.
Each year, we provide more than 2,500 vets with employment services that include assessment, training and placement. Compensated work programs oﬀer a stipend while training veterans for a new career, and help is available with everything from resume prep to job interviewing, clothing and transportation. Finding work is an important part of building back confidence and pride and sustaining independence.
“ank you for seeing me as a veteran and not a homeless man.”
THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO.
Private Philanthropy: Bellwether of Opportunity THERE IS NO ONE ANSWER in our
ONE LIFE AT A TIME
quest to find the best life possible for America’s returning veterans. e paths to full integration with civilian life are as varied as the veterans themselves. And each successive generation of veterans represents a singular set of challenges — and opportunities to honor their service.
As we work to fill the needs left unmet by a patchwork of federal programs, we encounter a wealth of opportunity every day to make a diﬀerence — one life at a time. We weave a safety net around veterans that helps to return them whole to mainstream society. ousands of soldiers will be coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must anticipate their needs. Now is the time to tackle this challenge.
DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF PUBLICPRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
Backed by our legacy of service, Volunteers of America has long leveraged government funding with private money to serve veterans and their families. Philanthropy ensures continuity, providing the edge of assurance in the face of fluctuating federal budgets. It aﬀords us the flexibility we need as a best-practice organization to meet changing needs and take advantage of emerging solutions.
WE PLEDGE TO: •
Increase the number and variety of permanent and transitional housing options for veterans and their families. Respond to the unique needs of women veterans. Expand veterans’ access to mental health services and substance-abuse treatment. Support veterans who suﬀered mental and physical injuries, and support veterans as they age. Oﬀer more supportive services to enable veterans and families to maintain housing and live independently. Assist veterans to improve their employability. Serve as strong advocates for veterans and their issues.
THE HOME DEPOT FOUNDATION INVESTS IN VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA TO HELP AMERICA’S VETERANS The Home Depot Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home. Its goal is to provide veterans in need and their families with some sense of comfort and normalcy as they work to recover and rebuild their lives. “Volunteers of America has been an outstanding partner over the last two years. With its national reach and track record of eﬀectiveness, together we have been able to make a tangible diﬀerence in the lives of veterans across the country,” says Foundation President Kelly Caﬀarelli. Since 2011, The Home Depot Foundation has invested more than $3.4 million in 32 Volunteers of America locations with a grant to repair and rehabilitate housing for veterans and their families. In addition to contributing grant dollars, the Foundation has connected teams of local associates with Volunteers of America aﬃliates to help with building, painting and planting. “Giving veterans who were formerly homeless a secure place to live makes a powerful diﬀerence in their quality of life,” says Caﬀarelli. “It is the least we can do to recognize the tremendous sacriﬁce they have made for us.” LOCATIONS THAT BENEFITED FROM THE HOME DEPOT FOuNDATION 2011 GRANT DOLLARS: Boaz, Centerville, Cullman, Huntsville, Mobile, and Woodville, AL; Los Angeles, CA; Jacksonville and Miami, FL; Fort Wayne, IN; Louisville, KY; Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport, LA; Detroit and Niles, MI; Sioux Falls, SD; Houston, TX; and Spokane, WA.
How Can You Help?
VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA seeks to raise money both to build national programs
that can be implemented locally and to fund aﬃliates as they develop and sustain local programs that can be replicated nationally. Philanthropic opportunities will vary among communities, but encompass: HOUSING that creates a safe refuge for women, meets both men and women where they are, and oﬀers comprehensive services. Refurbishment of existing homes to accommodate disabled veterans and add the amenities that make them more comfortable for families with children. Securing permanent housing for veterans struggling to make their first down payment also puts them on the road to stable lives. SUPPORTIVE SERVICES, such as enhanced health care services for elderly veterans,
delivered via new Mobile Service Center vans customized to meet a wide variety of needs. Telemedicine and high-speed communications or virtual networks connect veterans to each other for peer support and to providers for expertise.
EMPLOYMENT AND JOB TRAINING that simulate working conditions in an increasingly technical world, advance literacy and introduce the interpersonal skills veterans need to succeed.
e freedoms we enjoy have come at a price, and America has an enduring obligation to the men and women who have paid most dearly for them. How can we claim pride in our veterans if we allow them to live in poverty and obscurity, disconnected from society? A strong commitment to serve America’s veterans is the best expression of thanks a grateful nation can bestow. Help us help them.
Photography Credits: u.S. Department of Defense; Volunteers of America Colorado Branch, Florida, Greater Ohio, and Greater Los Angeles; Volunteers of America, Inc. March 2013
1660 Duke Street Alexandria, VA 22314-3427 800.899.0089 www.VolunteersofAmerica.org