What is your purview?
We provide veterans in Western Pennsylvania with housing, employment and utility assistance. We also provide emergency basic needs. We are a tax site – we will be doing taxes here in January – we assist with transportation needs, bus passes and gas cards. Any services a veteran could need in any phase of transition, post- or pre-separation, we are able to facilitate that in-house. If we’re not, we make a referral through PA Serves, a coordinated network of veterans service providers.
Last year, we provided almost 700 veterans with housing, nearly 1,200 veterans with supportive services through Stand Down, which is a one-day resource fair for veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, and 500 veterans with employment services.
What are the most pressing issues facing the veterans you serve?
Homeless prevention and the intermittent nature of some veterans’ employment that causes adverse economic situations. Studies show a recently released veteran will have up to three positions before they find a job with some form of stability. During that time, keeping rent current, utilities current and not entering into any type of arrears is a significant challenge for them. We have really gleaned the importance of holistic case management – we try to identify the root of why that adverse incident occurred. Then we drill in on their skill set so we can express it in civilian terminology and help them find a career, help their family, and earn a living wage.
What is the one thing you would like people to know about helping veterans?
Not every veteran is a charity case. A lot of them are having trouble transitioning and reintegrating into civilian society. But these veterans transitioning into your communities bring with them a great skill set of leadership and commitment and technical skills that go a long way to assisting communities and organizations.
Don’t think of them as a liability or a burden – think of them as an asset to not only the country’s national defense but to the communities to which they come from.