The Department of New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to address veteran homelessness brought a consortium of agencies together for a symposium on affordable housing opportunities, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The department’s employment, homeless and education committee, and the Wilmington VAMC, hosted the symposium at Post 524 in Ocean City, N.J., on Feb. 24. More than 70 developers, providers, VA staff, national experts and subject matter experts met to share information and learn from each other how to better understand the process of applying for funding.
Bob Looby, the department’s employment and education chairman, said the symposium “also highlighted how we have to better understand the needs of our veterans, ensuring they have the right type of mental health care to prevent suicide and better treat PTSD, depression and substance use disorders.”
Symposium participants concluded that housing alone is not enough to address the homeless veteran issue — that mental health, medical and employment services are also critical components.
Former American Legion Veterans Employment and Homeless Policy Advisor Nicole Hayes said the importance of departments executing initiatives like this “is the ability to engage with local community resources to assemble for the common good of supporting our veterans.”
“This ‘grassroots’ approach offers the ability to network and collaborate with organizations who have their ear to the ground and specifically know detailed stories of our veterans. This initiative also engages businesses with skillsets in construction, land development, and real estate an opportunity to offer their resources as solutions for housing our veterans and their families,” Hayes said.