The Home for the Holidays Program was started in 2012 when the Monument to Women Veterans, Inc., and POE In Action, Inc., came together to seek new means to provide much-needed housing for local homeless veterans 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 agreed with LHS for the 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 resulted from individually specialized programs, continual monitoring of progress, and the extreme dedication of committed volunteers who helped ensure veterans and their family members’ constant participation.
The program covered a variety of needs and interests. The program covered 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 plan to follow as they participated in available activities. But there were specific requirements that every participant had to fulfill to succeed. And those will be explained fully in the following pages.
The program operates as a total drug and alcohol-free environment. As such, absolutely no drugs or alcohol are permitted anywhere on the property, including vehicles parked on the property. Only prescription medications prescribed within the last 90 days will be allowed and must be consumed following written instructions that accompany the medication.
This program’s success prompted more organizations to join our support in 2014 to take some of our veteran families out of homelessness and provide emergency housing for 30 days. The program includes intensive case management and supportive services that help them achieve their permanent residences within a brief period. Following is a summary of the 2014 Home for the Holidays program.
This project is focused on the physical and mental well-being of all female veterans facing various transitions. It is designed as a transitional housing program that provides supportive services, including job counseling; requires veterans to seek and maintain employment; requires veterans to pay reasonable rent; requires sobriety as a condition of occupancy, and serves other female veterans in need of housing on a space-available basis. This program aims to help all 50 households achieve self-sufficiency and have the ability to pay their rent, utilities and provide the standard, necessary items for a healthy lifestyle for their family with adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
Without a stable place to live and a support system to help them address their underlying problems, most struggling female veterans bounce from one emergency system to the next—from the streets to shelters to public and VA hospitals to psychiatric institutions and detox centers and back to the streets—endlessly. The high cost of this cycle of homelessness, inhumane and economic terms, can be seen in many people’s lives throughout the Gulf Coast.
The Empowerment Center tenants will have access to a multitude of services provided by MWV and collaborating community service providers, including primary health services, mental health services, educational services, employment services, life skills, and child care services applicable.
We will determine how many persons had an unmet service through clearly defined performance measures to be associated with a specific condition (physical disability, developmental disability, chronic health, HIV/AIDS, mental health, substance abuse). They were able to receive services for their condition by the time they exited the program.
An annual tenant survey completed by onsite staff and the ongoing case management of tenants helps determine the effectiveness of programs and whether they are meeting defined benchmarks.
The Center will provide space for supportive services to be delivered onsite and have additional office space so that the property manager could also house their staff onsite. Classes are offered onsite in the beginning to intermediate computers, as are educational and vocational assessment and case management services. Volunteers and other community resources also provide art therapy groups, meditation groups, and physical fitness classes.
Community-building activities are also the responsibility of the Social Services staff. These include support for a tenant’s active council, which meets weekly, movie nights on a donated large screen television, holiday parties & events, and group participation in cultural events in the larger community.
The Monument to Women Veterans, Inc. has purchased the screening rights for the award-winning film, “The Invisible War”. Filmmaker Kirby Dick presents this groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best-kept secrets – the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. MWV offers this film as part of our on-going community education and advocacy for all who serve in the U.S. military, past, present, and future.
Following the very first showing of The Invisible War in 2012, it was evident that there was a need for PTSD support groups for victims in the local community who have experienced military sexual trauma. Monument to Women Veterans immediately sought out a local organization to facilitate PTSD support groups for women to meet this need. In 2013, this program was approved for CEU credits for nurses. Following a showing to a national nurse’s organization in St. Louis, MO, MWV successfully facilitated the beginning of two new PTSD support groups for women.
Plans are currently underway for approval for CEU credit for social workers and mental health counselors.