In July, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in partnership with its 19 federal member agencies, released Home, Together, the new federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. A major focus of the new plan is to increase access to meaningful and sustainable career training and employment pathways for people exiting homelessness. As part of that effort, VA and the Department of Labor are partnering to strengthen collaboration between their local staff and grantees to improve employment outcomes for Veterans exiting homelessness.
There have been numerous examples of successful interagency collaboration between VA’s Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES) Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) and DOL’s Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grantees that deserve to be highlighted. A recent webinar that featured CECs and HVRP grantees in Boston, MA and Honolulu, HI describes lessons learned and recommendations for establishing strong partnerships.
HVRP and HVCES: program goals and partnership benefits
Through HVCES, 150 vocational development specialists, also known as CECs, work at VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country to boost employment outcomes for Veterans who are homeless or exiting homelessness. Additionally, HVCES staff serve as a bridge to local resources and employment opportunities made available by federal, state, local and non-governmental partners. One such important partner is the workforce system. The American Job Centers have 2,400 sites across the country that will work with CECs to find training, employment, and other federal and local resources. To find a local workforce center, visit www.careeronestop.org.
Labor’s HVRP provides grants to organizations to fulfill two core objectives:
1) Provide services to assist in reintegrating homeless Veterans into meaningful employment within the labor force
2) Stimulate the development of effective service delivery systems that will address the complex problems facing homeless Veterans
Through HVRP, Veterans are provided with employment training, transportation, professional clothing, and more. With VA’s Homeless Programs providing Veterans with ongoing support services, medical care and housing, this partnership ensures homeless and at-risk Veterans have the comprehensive support they need to obtain and maintain gainful employment.
There are many communities across the country where VA and Labor work together toward their shared mission of connecting previously homeless Veterans with job opportunities. The webinar strongly encouraged VA staff and DOL HVRP grantees to continue to collaborate or begin working together in areas where a partnership has not yet been established.
During the webinar, local HVCES and HVRP teams in Boston and Honolulu shared their strategies for success, specific challenges that remain, and examples of solutions for addressing these roadblocks. Highlighting the importance of collaborative partnerships, the communities identified positive outcomes including:
- Increased access to and awareness of both HVCES and HVRP services while reducing redundancy
- Improved services and experiences for Veterans
- Development of creative strategies that expose employers to Veterans, ultimately helping more Veterans obtain employment
Charles Franklin, CEC at the Boston VA Healthcare System and Julia Franklin, outreach specialist at the Veterans Training School, New England Center and Home for Veterans both emphasized, “When collaborating in your community, remember to avoid viewing each other as competitors. Instead, work together to achieve the shared goal.”
With approximately 400 attendees, the webinar was an important first step. VA and DOL are founding members of USICH’s new Interagency Working Group on Homelessness and Employment, which has developed a strategic action framework that includes better coordination between the homelessness assistance and workforce systems. The working group will continue to identify opportunities to strengthen collaboration across federal programs in support of local efforts to improve employment outcomes for individuals, including Veterans, experiencing and exiting homelessness.
Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
Review Home, Together, the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
Anthony Love serves as the director of community engagement for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Healthcare Administration, Homeless Programs. Anthony has over 18 years of experience in homelessness, Veterans and poverty issues. From 2010-2012, Love served as deputy director for at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, where he was responsible for coordinating the state and local work of the council and serve as the lead on Veterans issues. Love earned a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the University of Missouri‐Kansas City.