Grass-roots collaboration between VA Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) and local workforce boards are helping more Veterans exiting homelessness find employment, according to Dr. Carma Heitzmann, director of VA’s Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES), in a recent interview with National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) president and CEO Ron Painter.
“Strong and meaningful partnerships with community agencies” are central to connecting Veterans with employment opportunities, which contribute to ending their homelessness, Heitzmann said during the 30-minute radio interview that aired May 26, on NAWB’s Workforce Central channel.
She underscored VA’s commitment to ending Veteran homelessness and noted that permanent housing is still a major need. Yet employment is critical to reintegrating formerly homeless Veterans into the community. And that’s where VA’s newly formed cadre of CECs come in –working out of VA Medical Centers (VAMC), these trained staff collaborate with community partners and employers to connect Veterans with jobs and wraparound services.
Although the program is only about one year old, Heitzmann said CECs are already forming strong connections with local American Jobs Centers, which carry out workforce board activities in communities across the country. In fact, about 93 percent of the CECs interviewed report a strong relationship with American Jobs Center staff.
“We have American Jobs Center staff who hold office hours at our VA Medical Center sites to enroll Veterans,” said Heitzmann. “Additionally, VA CECs and American Jobs Center staff collaborate on Veteran job referrals and hold joint workshops on localized strategies to better serve Veterans with multiple barriers to employment.”
Such partnerships, she said, provide VA with a greater understanding of the local job market and help CECs connect job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness with the right job at the right time. These connections have contributed to a five percent increase in the employment rate of Veterans exiting Veterans Health Administration homeless residential programs in the first year.
Heitzmann urged workforce board members to reach out to their local CEC at the nearest VAMC. Although there are currently about 135 CECs across the country staffing just about every VAMC, eventually over 150 CECs will be available to help employ Veterans from coast to coast.
“This level of communication and collaboration is critical,” she said, “and we’re very much invested in that.”
Listen to the full discussion and share this informative program with others in the position to employ and serve Veterans exiting homelessness. Get more information about the HVCES program at VA’s HVCES website and find your local CEC by reviewing the CEC Contact List.
If you know a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, refer him or her to a VAMC, where homeless coordinators are ready to help. Veterans and their families can also call 1-877-4AID-VET to get connected to VA services.
Michael Taylor is the director of Homeless Veterans Outreach and Strategic Communications, Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.