By John Van Camp, president, Southwest Solutions
On the second Friday in April, about 500 veterans attended Stand Down 2012 in Detroit. Many are homeless or recovering from homelessness. The veterans received free services from 30 different providers that came together to offer a “one-stop” venue to address the multiple needs of struggling veterans.
Southwest Solutions was the lead agency to organize this Stand Down, which was very successful. It is the first time we have served in this role, and we hope to organize more events like this with our partners and donors.
Our involvement in veterans’ initiatives is relatively new in our 40-year history. Certainly, we have assisted veterans for a long time in programs such as mental health counseling, affordable housing, homeless prevention, and more. But, in terms of programs specifically designed for veterans, Piquette Square marked the beginning, although we were only able to build Piquette because of the proven success of our other programs and our reputation for assembling strong partnerships with organizations in every sector of the community.
Piquette Square opened in June 2010. Since that time, we have added our Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) and our Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) . HVRP assists homeless veterans with resources, vocational training and job opportunities. SSVF helps eligible veterans and their families stabilize their housing situation and connect them to the services and resources they need. We also have a Veteran Resource Coordinator who assists donors and volunteers who want to support the veterans we serve.
Piquette has become a magnet for community engagement and collaboration. Veterans organizations, churches, corporations and others have donated household items and food, sponsored social events, enhanced the building and property, and continue to benefit the veterans we serve in many different ways. Providing effective services to veterans and their families is inherently a collaborative endeavor. Each partner brings unique resources and opportunities. Recently, the Veterans Community Resource and Referral Center (VCRRC), which is based at Piquette and is operated by the Detroit VA Medical Center, opened its doors. The VCRRC is a treatment center for homeless veterans.
As the two million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan come home, we and our partners will be called upon to expand our work helping veterans in need. A large percentage of post-9/11 veterans require health and support services to recover from the stress of combat and repeated deployments. In addition, the jobless rate in our country remains high. Addressing and preventing homelessness among veterans is a national priority, and the innovative and collaborative efforts in Detroit have placed us at the forefront of this urgent issue.
Recently, a decorated combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – and who then became homeless after returning to Detroit – moved into Piquette Square. His name is Ramone Davis, and his story is already a remarkable success. Ramone has settled into his apartment comfortably, and our caseworkers helped him land a good-paying job with Ford Motor Company. Ramone’s story exemplifies the many ways our veterans’ programs serve, and what our veterans deserve.
As Piquette Square evolves, we expect that it will be a blend of two kinds of situations for the veterans residing there. Piquette provides permanent supportive housing, and, undoubtedly, there will be many veterans who will remain there for the long term. For other veterans, Piquette will be an important transition, providing them the dignified housing and comprehensive support services they need to become self-sufficient and reintegrate into society.