The Home for the Holidays Program was started in 2012 when the Monument to Women Veterans, Inc., and POE In Action, Inc., came together for the purpose of seeking some new means to provide much needed housing for local homeless veterans and their families. It was determined that with the assistance of local leaders in the hotel industry, a pilot project could be established to house ten families for thirty days while providing intensive case management and specialized resources and referrals in cooperation with other community service providers. The two organizations entered into an agreement with LHS for use of ten rooms and dining and meeting and office space at the Days Inn on Hwy. 29 in Escambia County Florida. Then the fun began determining how best to provide the specific services necessary for each family to become self-sufficient again in such a short amount of time with no funding previously committed to such a program.
By working with many different agencies and many volunteers, the project evolved into the most successful method for reducing veteran homelessness. At the end of the 30 days, nine of the ten veteran families were in permanent housing and six of them were employed in new jobs, three were attending college or trade school and all had received most of the necessary household goods to keep them moving forward. Such successful outcomes were the direct result of individual specialized programs, continual monitoring of progress, and the extreme dedication of committed volunteers who helped ensure the constant participation of the veterans and their family members.
Program areas spanned a wide variety of needs and interests such as mental health counseling, STD education, connecting to VA benefits, PTSD support groups, money management training, job coaching, anger management training, personal hygiene training, education and career counseling, recreational choices, and much more were all essential steps along this roadway to success. There was no one-size fits all approach. Each person had their own plan to follow as they participated in available activities. But there were certain requirements that every participant had to fulfill to succeed. And those will be explained fully in the following pages.
The program operates as a totally drug and alcohol free environment, and as such absolutely NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL are permitted anywhere on the property and that includes vehicles parked on the property. Only prescription medications prescribed within the last 90 days will be allowed and must be consumed in accordance with written instructions that accompany the medication.
The success of this program prompted more organizations to join in our support in 2014 to again take some of our veteran families out of homelessness and provide emergency housing for thirty days along with intensive case management and supportive services that help them to achieve their own permanent residences within a very short period of time. Following is a summary of the 2014 Home for the Holidays program.
We had been advised by the Homeless Coalition and VA that the greatest need was for families and yet neither provided any referrals of families. Their referrals are as stated above. This is a further reflection of the needs as identified by the Monument to Women Veterans that the greatest need is for housing assistance for single females.
Our assistance was also needed for mental health issues reflecting another established need for mental health care for this community.
Of the seven non-veteran clients, two were placed in an assisted living facility, four are now in transitional housing and one is a single female who has found employment and acceptable temporary safe housing.
None of the 2014 clients returned to homelessness upon completion of the 30 day program. However, due to mental health concerns three are still considered at risk for homelessness. (2 females and 1 male)