The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Operation VETS Connect 

When it comes to ending veteran homelessness, securing reliable employment is just as crucial as finding affordable housing. To help encourage expanded  employment opportunities for the state’s veterans, Gov. Maggie Hassan and New Hampshire Employment Security have created Operation VETS Connect. The 100-day initiative challenges Granite State employers to expand upon established veteran hiring initiatives; it runs from Sept. 2 to Dec. 10. 
“They represent the very best of our state’s deep talent pool, possessing a wide variety of transferrable skills proven in real-world situations, including leadership, collaboration and the ability to focus on and achieve defined objectives,” Hassan stated in a press release. 
As part of Operation VETS Connect, NHES is hosting veteran-specific job fairs and sending notices to employers about the benefits of hiring veterans, according to a press release. It is also providing resources to veterans to assist with resume writing and other essential job-search skills. Referrals or funding may be available for veterans who wish to enroll in employment programs including Return to Work and On-the-Job Training. 
Stand Down Day 
If you know a homeless veteran or are one yourself, a good place to start getting help is at the Harbor Homes and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ninth  annual Stand Down event Thursday, Oct. 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Harbor Homes offices, 45 High St., Nashua.  
The day of outreach is a “one-stop shop” to help identify homeless veterans and connect them to resources and information. Veterans who attend receive food, clothing, hygiene products, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling and referrals to services such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment.
“It’s a busy day for [veterans],” said  Amanda Price of the Harbor Homes veterans reintegration program. “We’ll connect them with the VA to help them get involved if they are not already, and let them know about resources and housing available. … We’ll have wonderful ladies here giving haircuts. We offer free meals while they are there. Some people will be giving flu shots, suicide prevention information.”
Organizers are currently working to line up vendors and finalize logistics. They are still looking for volunteers and donated thumb drives, gas cards and coffee. Contact Andrea Reed or Jessica Price at 882-3616.

Headway and holdups
Efforts to end veteran homelessness will continue after four-year plan ends


 Technically, 2014 is the final year for The New Hampshire Homeless Veterans’ Plan, an aggressive four-year strategy to end homelessness among local veterans and their families.

The 49-page document was created by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009. It thoroughly describes methods of  meeting goals and objectives for six areas: outreach and education, treatment, prevention, housing/supportive services, income/employments/benefits and community partnerships. 
But despite efforts to reach those goals, it hasn’t been enough.
“We have not eliminated homelessness in veterans in New Hampshire, and we’re not going to do it before the end of 2014, and that’s disappointing,”  said Maureen Ryan of the Bureau of Homeless and Housing, NH Department of Health and Human Services. 
When the plan was written about five years ago, federal agencies like the Veterans Administration and the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness had been amping up their focus on veterans’ homelessness, Ryan said. The plan was developed so the state would be poised to accept and make use of any resources that became available.  
“The federal government makes resources available without a lot of warning,” Ryan said.
And some resources did become available. The state applied for and received additional VASH Supported housing vouchers, and grants and per diem funding for transitional housing. NH Housing and Finance Authority applied to and received project-based vouchers. 
Harbor Homes has opened three new transitional housing units, two in Nashua and one in Manchester, since 2008 (the newest opened last year). One serves only men while the other two welcome families. 
“They can stay two years,” said Harbor Homes associate Donna Collins, “and basically when people come in the first thing we try to do is get them on the road to self-sufficiency. We have a program that’s just for vets, and they get assessed and we look at their skills: do they need more education or training?”
While New Hampshire seems to be in a good place when it comes to transitional housing, there are still significant challenges to finding affordable permanent housing after veterans must leave short-term settings, both Ryan and Collins said. 
In 2013 the state identified 506 homeless veterans who were served in New Hampshire  homeless shelters and transitional housing programs over the course of that year, Ryan said. A point-in-time count of homeless people conducted Jan. 29 identified 209 veterans who were homeless on that day. When the four-year plan was developed, an estimated 600 veterans were homeless in the state. That indicates an approximate 15-percent decrease.
“VASH vouchers are very hard to come by. They can go with them to their permanent housing, and I do believe we work with a lot of landlords in Manchester, but it is a challenge, because it’s not an inexpensive city to live in,” Collins said. 
One of the best things to come out of the plan is cohesion among the key players, officials say. It has united DHHS, the Manchester VA Medical Center, the National Guard, the White River Junction Medical Center, and other community organizations to work together toward eliminating the problem. Members of the organizations met monthly at first, and then bi-monthly to share information and resources. 
“We realized there previously has not been good communication. Having every-other-month meetings was a huge benefit,” said Ryan. “We know who the players are now, who the people are now. So that’s been a huge benefit.”
By working together the agencies and organizations have been more successful in identifying homeless veterans, Ryan said. 
“Initially we were kind of estimating the numbers and we knew some things weren’t happening as much as they could. We knew service providers weren’t asking everyone whether or not they were homeless.” 
It’s still a challenge in the North Country where homeless veterans may be living in isolated areas of forest and may not want to be identified. There are also fewer resources available up north, and only one VA center. Then there are the individuals who don’t qualify for services because they have received dishonorable discharge. 
“We’ve learned more about that and need to access more mainstream channels to help them,” Ryan said. 
The group of organizations still meets every other month and will continue to do so after the four-year plan ends. 
“A plan can be very helpful as a guide, but the plan isn’t what does the work,” Ryan said. “It’s the people who are boots on the ground. With the plan expiring in 2014, we’ll continue to do the work.” 
As seen in the September 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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