HOUSING, REHABILITATION, JOB TRAINING, & SOCIAL REINTEGRATION
Each individual has up to 2 years to complete our program of rehabilitation and to acquire meaningful employment. There is a two-fold reason for this expectation: We see this as plenty of time to recover from the hardships of their street life, and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge needed to pursue their chosen career, craft, or trade. [We are trying not to create a situation that allows one to be too reliant upon other people’s generosity in order to maintain their livelihood.]
Also, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) provides some financial assistance to programs such as ours, which provide transitional housing solutions to homeless veterans. This program only offers financial support for up to 2 years, while the veteran is on a path to becoming financially self-sufficient, and living in our veteran's community.
Before acceptance into the Homes 4 Vets program, each Veteran will go through a short screening process, which will determine whether that individual will benefit from our services [in other words, take the program seriously] and ultimately make the effort to better his/her life and that of their loved ones. This will include:
- a review of military separation papers [DD214] to see what type of discharge was received.
- a criminal history check, to ensure that it would be safe to allow them onto the property.
- a drug test, in order to see what drug use issues they might need treatment for.
- a physical examination to ensure the applicant will be able to endure the rigorous activities in which they will be engaging
- a short questionnaire to establish an historical baseline of their occupational background and future ambitions.
This screening process will allow us to take on the candidates that we feel could ultimately be the most successful and would apply the most effort to improving their lives, through physical & emotional therapy, job & life skills training programs, and becoming a part of a small community of comrades with shared experiences, and mutual support, where everyone works together to make the gears turn (i.e. pitching in on landscaping, trash cleanup, organizing & promoting community events, etc.).
When we take on a new client, they will be asked to sign a contract which states that they will take the program seriously and that they will make a sincere effort to live up to the minimal obligations of community members, in return for the housing and services provided to them. The first obligation, after the background check and substance abuse test, will be a month-long introductory course aimed at breaking old bad habits and getting our veterans prepared for a positive new life path.
Residents will be housed in “no amenities” rooms during this first month of “Basic Training”. All personal facilities [Mess Hall, Showers and Latrine] will be located in the Community Center, requiring folks to interact and build bonds with their classmates.
We call this course “Operation Phoenix”, because we hope it will be a major step in a metaphorical rebirth or reawakening for our residents. Operation Phoenix will include classes of 10-25 incoming veterans, and will focus on morning exercise routines, life skills training classes (personal hygiene, cooking, money management, communication skills, etc.), progress assessment, and psychological counseling as needed.
The program will be vigorous, with 5:30 am wake ups and calisthenics before breakfast, served in the community center. We will hire a retired drill instructor to conduct the physical training and discipline aspects, reorienting our clients to societal expectations and a strong work ethic, similar to the theme of their military background. We will consult our retired drill instructor, as well as professionals in the field of psychology, in order to determine the best and most effective program to get our residents on a positive track to success. Many of the exercises will focus on team building within the group of veterans, creating a sense of camaraderie between the newest recruits, so that these residents can feel more comfortable living and working together, and since “Lack of family support” has been listed as the primary cause of homelessness, this bonding will establish a new family.
During this month, courses relating to life skills will be taught, including lessons on how to balance a checkbook, use a computer for employment purposes, cook for themselves, maintain cleanliness and sanitation, etc. Local establishments such as a bank, or Credit Union, and a grocery store will be invited to locate on our campus, to accommodate our more than 300 residents (including spouses and children).
When our clients graduate from our “Basic Training”, we will hold a Graduation Ceremony, a celebrity will be invited to shake their hands, they will be issued a patch for their shoulder indicating their successful completion. Those who have earned this patch will be “Upper Classmen” and will act as mentors for the new arrivals. After the ceremony, Graduates will move into full “Efficiency Apartments” and, because they now have a full kitchen, will qualify for food stamps, therefore classes on how to cook their meals and shop for food will be appropriate. Those who have successfully completed this phase of the program will be expected to take care of themselves, and so will no longer eat in the mess hall or have their clothes laundered for them. Those who drop out before completion will be dismissed and directed to other programs and facilities that offer aid to the homeless. If they decide later to return to our program, they will be permitted to try one more time.
[AFTER RISING FROM THE ASHES]
At this point, clients will be promoted in status, and receive a patch to be worn on their clothing, exhibiting their success. As a perk, they will have a small color TV installed in their homes, on which they will be able to receive basic cable, and they will be eligible to work on campus in various paid and unpaid positions. (i.e. landscaping, janitorial services, training assistance, construction crew, etc.) 10% of all income obtained, either on or off campus, will be contributed to offset the cost of their upkeep.
The next month of their stay will focus on determining each client’s career path. Aptitude testing and counseling will be employed to find an occupation that will be compatible with the abilities and desires of the client. Speakers will be invited in to help the clients to understand what potential careers they could pursue, and what remunerations can be expected.
After the Veterans have settled in and gotten acclimated to their new surroundings, the path to social reintegration really begins; career path selection, job-training & testing, resume writing & interviewing, and assistance will be provided to enroll in higher education programs which further their progress toward meaningful employment.
Finally, clients will receive help finding a new residence after gaining sustainable employment.
The rehabilitation programs will be developed in collaboration with trained and experienced professionals in the psychological and rehabilitative fields, especially those familiar with the treatment of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), which so many veterans of war experience. These programs will be designed to assess each individual on an independent basis in order to set goals and expectations specific to their own situation and aspirations.