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Focus on Employment Helps Veterans Combat Homelessness

Provided by: Heidi Audette
Communications Director
Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

Sometimes coming home from war isn’t as easy as just unpacking the bags and getting on with life. Challenges like Traumatic Brain Injuries caused by repeated explosions, issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or complications from battlefield injuries can change life quickly and even lead to homelessness. Providing housing is certainly one of the many ways we help veterans break out of homelessness. But it’s not the only way.

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) operates a federal grant program called the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, and its focus isn’t on housing, it’s on employment. The grant allows us to provide employment related services to honorably discharged veterans who are able to work. We do things like help a veteran through a training program that will lead to a job. We can assist a veteran with transportation to his or her job, buy tools, work clothes, and take other steps to eliminate whatever barrier was holding that veteran back from gainful employment. And while the grant can’t pay for housing, our case managers can help veterans secure housing through special veterans housing vouchers or by tapping into other housing options in their community.

Employers who hire these veterans get employees who are self-starters and have an outstanding work ethic. Just think about the training they received in the military: navigating sophisticated computer systems, interpreting technical data and focusing on important deadlines. Imagine the dedication and commitment it takes to put your country above yourself. That sense of purpose and duty is an asset to any business.

Veterans get the specialized, intensive assessment, referrals and counseling they need to secure and keep jobs and ultimately secure their place back in their community.

So if you or someone you know is a homeless veteran, or if you are an employer who is interested in hiring a veteran, give us a call at 1-800-562-2308 or send an email to benefits@dva.wa.gov.

An HVRP Success Story:

When a disabled woman veteran came to WDVA for help, she was unemployed and living in a shelter.   She also had significant dietary needs which meant she couldn’t use the food bank.   She had marketable skills but hadn’t been able to transfer those skills into a job, especially in a rural community near Spokane.   The HVRP connected her with experts who helped with her resume and interview skills.   HVRP bought food and the tools she needed to start an apprenticeship at $16 per hour. (Without her own tools, her wage would have been $12 per hour.) She worked with her HVRP case manager to save for a deposit and rent and moved into her own apartment.   One year later, she is still working, has her apartment and is doing very well!