Monday, November 11, 2013

Helping Homeless Military Veterans Part II

In my last post, I wrote about how local organizations that serve military veterans were helping the most vulnerable get the services they need. The event in Newark was called a “Stand Down”. Stand down, as a military term, is the process of pulling out exhausted soldiers from the battlefield to a place of relative safety to rest and recover before returning to fight. The concept of using a “stand down” to help connect homeless military veterans to social services shares a history with the problem solving court movement. 

The nation’s first homeless court, the San Diego Homeless Court, was established as an outgrowth of San Diego’s first Stand Down in 1988.  At the end of that event, 23% of homeless participants said their greatest need was to resolve their outstanding criminal cases. This feedback motivated the organizers to incorporate a court component into subsequent Stand Down events. In 1999 the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office applied for and received funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to create a “homeless court” program to be held at local homeless shelters.

In addition to supporting military veterans during events like Stand Down, Newark Community Solutions, in partnership with the Newark Municipal Court, created a monthly “veterans day” initiative. Defendants who identify their military service are added to a special veterans court docket and are connected to onsite social services and support groups. Veteran-serving agencies, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor and the G.I. Go Fund are also onsite to connect participants to the entitlements they’ve earned.  So far the outcomes are promising. The initiative was launched in early 2012 and more than 130 veterans have enrolled. As compared to other Newark Community Solutions clients, our veterans are more compliant with their court mandates (82% vs. 68%).

To learn more about how communities are helping homeless military veterans check out this article about San Diego Homeless Court and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website.

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