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live / 2021

Veterans Street Academy – A Community-centered Solution to Meeting Homeless Vets Where They’re At

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Village for Vets

Village for Vets will pilot the Veterans Street Academy (VSA), a grassroots program that addresses the critical problem of homelessness in Los Angeles by utilizing social workers and mobilizing community volunteers to support existing case management systems. In partnership with experts from the Veteran Peer Access Network and local community-based mental health services, Village for Vets will train a team of changemakers to assist chronically homeless Veterans through mentorship and skill-sharing, and by connecting them to vital resources.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Westside
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Cal Vets attributes high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury to the challenges Veterans face in finding and maintaining gainful employment and accessing housing. The VA reports that 55% of homeless Veterans suffer from mental health issues, 70% are affected by substance use, and 40% of female homeless Vets report severe mental illness, often resulting from military sexual trauma. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans cites other barriers including a shortage of affordable housing and lack of access to health care and social support networks. Further, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, making some Veterans less competitive in the job market. There are 3,902 homeless Veterans living in LA County (LAHSA 2020). While assistance is available, case workers are overloaded and existing programs fall short of providing adequate support for chronically homeless Vets and even meeting their basic needs.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Village for Vets will pilot the Veterans Street Academy, an innovative new program that provides services and community-based solutions to support case managers who engage the most intransigent homeless Veterans. With direct program oversight provided by a seasoned social worker and in partnership with experts from the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN) and local community-based mental health services, Village for Vets will engage social work interns and train a team of volunteers to support chronically homeless Veterans in their journey to self-sufficiency. Tapping into the successful VPAN model, Village for Vets will bring mentors to the streets to build a grassroots social support system and reinforce daily living skills for homeless Veterans with acute mental health challenges and other barriers to care. Social workers will connect homeless Vets to vital mental health, substance use, housing, employment, healthcare, education, and legal services. We will pilot accessible “street classes” in arts and recreation to support wellness. The Veterans Street Academy will utilize already-tested practices known as Contingency Management (rewards) and Community Reinforcement (mentoring) that have yielded positive outcomes for the treatment-resistant. Veterans who sign up for VSA will receive rewards including sleeping bag coats and other necessities. By packaging existing services like EZ ID, Village for Vets takes a holistic approach to meeting Veterans where they’re at.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Village for Vets envisions a city without Veteran homelessness. By offering a spectrum of supportive services and building a network of community mentors to assist existing systems of care for homeless Veterans, Village for Vets will provide an effective solution to the critical community problem of Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles. Once launched, the scalable Veterans Street Academy will be a model for nationwide replication that can be applied outside the Veteran community to all unhoused individuals.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Village for Vets will be successful when meeting the following measurable objectives in our pilot Veterans Street Academy year: –Hire a seasoned social worker to provide direct program oversight. –Contract with a social media and marketing expert who will educate and engage community stakeholders, including volunteers and referral sources digitally. –Engage and train up to 20 volunteers to provide mentorship and offer two street classes. –Develop a volunteer training manual and provide specialized training for volunteers quarterly. –Contract with a street outreach expert to train staff in direct outreach to the unhoused. –Contract with a web designer to develop a microsite to capture volunteers, case worker referrals, and other stakeholders, and manage engagement online. By meeting these objectives, Village for Vets and LA2050 will be partners in change in launching a sustainable program and powering our vision of an LA2050 without Veteran homelessness.

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Mental illness
  • Access to mental health services
  • Homelessness

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT