By: Melanie Avery
America has come a long way in advancing the fight to end homelessness in veterans. Our country has gone from having 200,000 veterans on the streets to having an estimated 41,000 remaining, many of which have at least been identified. In a country that boasts over two million veteran related service organizations, only a small number of those organizations focus on ending veteran homelessness. Veterans On the Rise (VOTR), a 501(c)3, is an African American operated, non-profit organization with a diverse staff that provides assistance to homeless veterans and veteran families through a housing first and a transitional model. Three veterans founded VOTR after they completed homeless programs with the general homeless population in 1999. VOTR is unique because there are less than 10 veteran programs that provide housing, mental healthcare and other holistic services in one location. VOTR residents have come into the housing programs after experiencing short or extended periods of homelessness or other forms of transition, job loss, extended illness, etc. VOTR also addresses the vocational skills of veterans by getting them placed into jobs in the electrical fields, construction, and hospitality fields.
VOTR has a record of success in that 94% of veterans rebalanced their lives, and been able to obtain permanent housing, and even careers. Having served 450 veterans and veteran families in the last four and a half years in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, VOTR teaches veterans to be self reliant and interdependent no matter what they may be facing in life. VOTR’s already established model offers a turnkey approach that would be easy to scale up nationally. VOTR keeps many veterans off the street and out of the news.
VOTRs current funding is accomplished this great work on a small budget through grants and contracts from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Justice, leveraging services available for veterans through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, community and corporate service events, and through private donations.
Veterans On the Rise is also doing its part to assist in making the transitions of returning citizens smooth. Having run a mentoring program for veterans who are returning citizens for the last two years, VOTR has assisted veterans in obtaining certificates in green building maintenance, and with gaining employment opportunities with funding from the Second Chance Act, through corporate sponsorship’s, and through private donations
When asked why he does the work he does for homeless veterans, Executive Director of Veterans On the Rise Charles Avery shared that supporting veterans is in his genes, “In my adolescents, I watched my relatives maintain financial stability after leaving the military by leveraging their vocational skills upon completing their service commitments. Having access to good work kept their families together. I believe all veterans should have access to the employment, healthcare, mental healthcare, and housing they need to live healthy, productive lives that they love. Veterans On the Rise, paves the way for veterans by letting them know that their Nation cares, and that we will not leave them behind!”