Atlanta’s Veteran’s Empowerment Organization has helped more than 4,000 homeless veterans and their families find housing, job training, and supportive services.
Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, the nonprofit provides a “safety net of housing, meals, health care, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and after care in addition to job assessment, training and placement assistance.”
“We have a process through which we take people who were homeless and helpless, and we get them back to self-sufficiency,” said Dan Valentine, Director of Development and Operations for VEO. “It gives them back their lives, so they can live the life they deserve because of the service and protection they have given all of us.”
The organization doesn’t just work with individuals, but also helps those with kids and families, understanding that there is no one single track to homelessness.
“Everybody who comes in here comes in here with a different story, a different need, and a different personality,” Valentine said.
“We build programs around homeless veterans. We don’t try to fit homeless veterans into a program.”
The VEO has just one question to determine eligibility for services: “are you a veteran?”
Services are not restricted based on income or criminal background.
With their “Housing First” model, they work with the veterans to provide housing and food, and then go on to assess what other needs they have. Their approach was recognized by the Obama White House as one of the top housing programs in America.
VEO’s holistic method offers a combination of services to help meet the needs of veteran’s with a variety of issues, including mental health, addiction, or documentation. They also assist with resume building, dress for success, job search help, and job training.
Through the organization’s “Serve a Hero” program, volunteers and sponsors can help by donating food to the veterans. By sponsoring a meal, individuals, corporations, and church groups help feed more than 60 veterans. The program serves more than 30,000 meals a year.
Valentine said the veterans are always extremely grateful for the support. “They’ve been given this chance to get back into the game,” he said. “They want to tell their story. They want to interact. And they always appreciate when someone comes out to do something for them.”
The VEO’s programs have proven successful. Tyler, an Air Force vet from Afghanistan, went through the tragedy of losing two children. He started drinking heavily and lost his job, and soon found himself living on the street.
Tyler turned to VEO for help. “He found a home,” Valentine said. “He found a place not where he was just going to get shelter, but a place where he can find a path back. He’s a guy who has really taken his story and has turned around.”