No Wrong Doors for Homeless Veterans

Taylor Southall and I (both AmeriCorps Summer VISTA volunteers with NCH’s VISTA Project) planned and organized an event last week called No Wrong Door. The idea was to get local organizations that serve the homeless together in order to teach them about the options available for homeless veterans, with the hope that if a homeless veteran ever shows up at their organization they would know exactly how to help.

We got in contact with the Veterans Administration and they sent representatives from the Veterans Health Administration, and the Veterans Benefit Administration. We also invited an attorney who has a practical and in-depth knowledge of accessing benefits and healthcare.

The event was held at the VA’s newly opened Community Resource and Referral Center, which is like a one-stop-shop for veterans seeking help.

More than 25 people show up the event, and we had a wait-list of over 50 people who wanted to come to the next training event. It was very interesting to learn about the different services provided by the VA, and great to see service providers connecting the dots to understand how to access VA benefits, and how they could be more effective when working with a veteran.

Throughout the summer Taylor and I have been working hard to make sure service providers in the DC area know what resources are available for veterans. We have met in person with many of the homeless service organizations and have developed a Homeless Veteran Resource Card that will be delivered to any organization where homeless veterans might go to for assistance. The Card has everything veterans can use in the DC area to access assistance, such as legal assistance, housing, and mental health services. This is the first card of its kind and we know it’s going to have a big impact on homeless veterans. We are glad we can help people who fought for our homes find a place to call home.

Taylor and I are also glad that No Wrong Door was a successful event, and that we were able to be a part of organizing the event.  We’re confident that the Resource Card will continue to help local organizations find the resources veterans need to get off the streets and that future No Wrong Door events will continue to build relationships between service agencies and VA Offices that will help more effectively provide for the veteran community.

Contact me if you’d like to know more about the Veterans Resource Card, or read more about the event on Friendship Place’s blog.

-Marc McCue
NCH Summer VISTA Volunteer

This year’s National AmeriCorps Week, March 10 – 18, is an opportunity for AmeriCorps members, alums, grantees, program partners and friends to demonstrate impact on critical issues, bring more Americans into service, and thank the community partners who make AmeriCorps possible. AmeriCorps Week shines a light on the more than 80,000 members currently serving in communities across the country – individuals who are effectively serving and meeting critical needs in our country’s communities.

I am one of these proud 80,000 AmeriCorps members! I started with AmeriCorps*VISTA in the summer 0f 2009. So far the experience has taken me to rebuilding homes in the bayous of Louisiana, teaching lessons in the inner city classrooms of Washington, D.C., and now serving as a VISTA Project Leader for the vast reaching five state and counting VISTA program here at the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). The experience, connections, and knowledge I have gained from serving are already helping guide and shape my future.

Brian being sworn in to his 3rd year of VISTA

In this, my third year of AmeriCorps*VISTA I have learned what it means to really be an advocate for a community. I have grown a lot in the few short months I have worked with NCH. Being apart of a great VISTA network allows for me to be inspired by the work of other members daily whether it is a speakers bureau reaching a group of students for the first time, LGBTQ outreach to those who need services desperately, or to see veterans stand downs where literally hundreds of our nation’s patriots get the help and respect they deserve. The work that our members are doing is truly incredible and uplifting.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is the oldest and largest homeless advocacy organization in the country.  Through their stewardship they have administered the largest AmeriCorps*VISTA project for the homeless in the country. Two out of three staff members at the coalition are past VISTA members themselves and NCH has partnered with VISTA for the past fourteen years. NCH believes in the leadership potential of these individuals and has supported them both as an organization and a strategy to continue to create change. During this year’s AmeriCorps Week, you can support NCH’s AmeriCorps*VISTA project today through the Crisis Hidden in Plain View campaign. The campaign is working to encourage outreach and engagement to families and individuals who are homeless or at-risk of becoming un-housed. Here is how you can give.

The value of AmeriCorps service has been felt in communities both large and small. Here at NCH we look forward to celebrating AmeriCorps Week with our service partners and volunteers and lifting up currently serving members and the hundreds of thousands of Alums – they are at the forefront of possibility for community change.

In Service,
Brian Parks
AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader
Washington, DC