By Jill Carmichael, Neighbors First Division Director
Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place
The day our staff found out that the Department of Veterans Affairs chose Friendship Place as a recipient of a $1 million Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant, the excitement in our office was off the charts. As the director of our Veterans First program, I of course am thrilled about our newly expanded grant to work with Veterans and their families. It’s so gratifying to think about how many people we will be able to help get back on their feet.
We launched our Veterans First program at Friendship Place about nine months ago, and in that time our staff learned invaluable information about working with this population. We now know what homeless Veterans’ unique needs are, and we’re using that information to tailor our expanded Veterans First program to be as effective and efficient as possible.
I’m particularly looking forward to rolling out our new specialist positions. Our Housing Specialist, for instance, will be fully trained in tenant rights and will create partnerships with landlords throughout the DC Metro Area. This will allow us to rapidly rehouse the people we?re working with while serving as a liaison between client and landlord.
The VA wants us to do our best to move our clients into housing with employment opportunities on the horizon. Our Employment Specialist will continue to expand upon the great employment services that Friendship Place already provides. This position will focus on job development as well as marketing to potential employers the special skills that Veterans bring to the table. We’re also creating specialist positions in benefits and outreach/intake.
Above all, we want to make a lasting impact on Veteran homelessness in DC. We are dedicated to working to prevent homelessness and to house those experiencing homelessness. This grant couldn’t have come at a better time — when the need for services continues to rise in our community. But in my eyes, seeing the dedication of my staff and the willingness of places like the VA to fund these efforts, I truly believe that we’re getting one step closer to ending homelessness every day.