VA Homeless Programs
Employment Roundtable FAQs
What do you think has been the most effective way to recruit Veterans to participate in the program?
The majority of Veterans that the Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES) program work with are already enrolled in the VA homeless program and get connected to Community Employment Coordinators (CECs). Some of them have gaps in employment history and may face other barriers to getting back to work. Therefore, the program focuses on education and integrating employment into the conversation. For many of the Veterans in the program, taking those first steps to employment may be difficult. HVCES helps them realize that they don’t have to go back to work today, but maybe in a few months that’s something they might want to look into.
Additionally HVCES helps Veterans look for part time job opportunities – there is an abundance of community providers and employers that want to hire Veterans part time. The program and CECs are not only educating the Veteran population but also educating the staff that work one-on-one with them, and there is an uptick in Veterans who want to go back to work because of that.
How does a Veteran’s background (military occupational specialty) tie-in to how easy it is to find them employment?
There is no simple answer for this. For Veterans who have more recently served, with current skills and more translatable skills, it is typically quicker to help them find a job. It’s more challenging working with Veterans who haven’t served in one or more decades, since their skills may not be translatable in the civilian world or as current as some jobs may need. HVCES relies on CECs and homeless program staff to be creative and help capitalize on those early skills to help those Veterans be competitive in today’s market. It’s an individualized situation – One Veteran. One Job – HVCES focuses on the individual and what they need and how to get them back to a place where they’re ready to return to work.
What does the HVCES program represent?
In May of 2014, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) began hiring Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) whose sole focus is on sourcing and fostering relationships with employers and community partners in their areas who are willing, as all employers should be, to hire Veterans. These individuals will be working hard to create partnerships and share the benefits of hiring Veterans.
Who are the CECs, what are their skills and how many have you hired?
HVCES funds 154 staff across the country, which equates to approximately one CEC per VA Medical Center. There are currently 141 staff on board and we are working on bringing on another 14. The CECs should have a strong background in knowing how to provide employment services for individuals who have experienced homelessness. They need to be good job developers and need to have thick skin since they’re typically told “no” more often than “yes.” They need to be able to work in a professional and collaborative manner with other agencies, since this is a position that operates within the local community. They need not just the ability to work with VA staff, but also with other federal, state and local agencies to provide a continuum of services for Veterans. They should have an understanding of the specific needs of a homeless Veteran returning to work which, may be very different from a Veteran recently in transition or one that has have never been homeless.
Have all of the CEC roles been filled?
No. There are still locations recruiting or going through the onboarding process. All locations will have CECs. We update the Web page very consistently, but it’s possible there are a few not reflected.
What is the budget for the HVCES program?
The program budget is approximately $15 million/year and the funding is used exclusively for staff salaries. The program has been approved by Congress and is part of an ongoing approved budget.
Why is there a need for these specific positions? What do the coordinators bring to the table that other non-profit organizations don’t already bring?
There are wonderful services available for homeless Veterans in many communities. The difficulty has been in being able to help Veterans access those and use them in a coordinated effort. That’s how the CECs help. Knowing how to put the pieces of the puzzle together to ensure that all Veterans exiting homelessness have access to services is a new process. CECs take the many resources available, manage them and bring them together so that Veterans have access to them. There are hundreds of employers and opportunities and resources available, but most are time sensitive. The role of the CEC is to match these time sensitive opportunities, job fairs and resources to the homeless program staff and streamline that as best they can. They offer an improvement in delivery in employment resources for Veterans. Transportation can be a barrier for the homeless Veteran population. Being able to connect a Veteran with the employment resources they need in their community has been a huge improvement. This makes it easier for them to walk into a meeting with a CEC, and get the best resources near them.
Is VA still committed to ending veteran homelessness this year? Have you changed your goals?
VA remains fully committed to the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. There is a tremendous network of housing solutions and supportive services available to Veterans exiting homelessness. The CECs are a critical part of this goal working diligently to help Veterans access employment resources that will improve their housing situation long-term. CEC in particular, speak to the importance of developing strong partnerships at the local level – they’re critical and part of the pathway to success. All of the partnerships being developed are vital to continue towards the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. Business provides a wealth of resources that are imperative to reaching our goal. It’s one thing to have a partner; it’s another to have that be a meaningful relationship. HVCES and the CECs are one of the main conduits of these relationships.
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