Barry Jordan excels in his role overseeing ship operations at a Florida shipyard. The Veteran did not learn the ropes of his profession in the Navy but as a vehicle mechanic in the Army. The military has always been an anchor in Jordan’s life, keeping him steadily on course, especially when he found himself in deep waters.

Jordan saw the benefits of enlisting firsthand from family members who served. He expected the Army to provide a challenging job that could support his young family, a chance to travel and most importantly, the honor of serving his country.

What he did not expect was that he would become involved with the justice system shortly after separating from the Army. And though the Veteran had received excellent care through VA, he certainly did not expect VA to help with his second transition to civilian life.

“Better than I ever could have imagined”

Jordan had never heard of VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Program (VJO), but when a representative reached out to him, he thought it sounded like a good choice. His intuition proved correct. When describing the program, he says it was “better than I ever could have imagined.”

The mission of VJO is to identify justice-involved Veterans and facilitate access to VA services at the earliest possible point. VJO is one of VA’s Homeless Programs and its services help connect Veterans with both the VA and community resources they need to access their benefits and transition to civilian life smoothly.

The program is a central part of VA’s strategy to break the cycle of Veteran incarceration and homelessness. At every VA medical center, a VJO specialist is ready to provide outreach to Veterans in various settings, including jails and courts.

Jordan did not have a job, house or car, and he was hesitant to ask for help. But through conversations, his caseworker Tanya Mazzei learned his needs, saying, “We took a look at what he needed to be successful and tried to fill in all those gaps with him.”

Mazzei and VJO were able to connect Jordan with a job he loves and where he excels, overseeing ship operations and maintenance on the Florida coast. Additionally, VA helped Jordan make the down payments on the home he now shares with his children.

“Take the leap”

Today, the biggest gaps Jordan sees are those between the ships docked at the shipyard, gaps filled with clear blue ocean. Grateful for his new view, he is constantly looking for ways to help other Veterans involved in the justice system.

Jordan encourages all Veterans to leverage the VJO program, saying, “Take the leap and get into it. It changed my life and I am where I am because of them.” Jordan recently graduated from VJO’s program and knows that if the waters ever feel choppy, VA will be there, ready to drop an anchor to help steady his journey.

Learn about VA programs

  • Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
  • Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
  • For more stories like these, visit the HPO website and subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

By Sean Clark is the national director of Veterans Justice Programs with the VA Homeless Programs Office

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Published on Jun. 10, 2022

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