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Communities in Action: A Trip to Norfolk

Innovative partnerships deliver outcomes for veterans and their families

“Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now we must summon that same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”

President Barack Obama, 2012

The President’s message to those who serve is clear: when you come home to America, America will be there for you. Together, the federal government, state and local governments, and the private sector, will work to establish a holistic and balanced approach for providing unprecedented levels of support for our servicemembers, veterans, wounded warriors, and military families.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Norfolk, VA to meet with the Mayor's team and discuss their design of a strategy aimed at enhancing the support available to their returning service members.

Overall, the city of Norfolk’s vision is to accomplish this by partnering with federal and state agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, local industry, and employers to implement a place-based strategy that leverages investments and efforts in an integrated way. By focusing on a particular place, with regional scale in mind, the goal is to have the most transformative, effective, and efficient impact.

To support this initiative, Norfolk has designated a leader for the effort, and has also created commissions to provide advice and direction. The community of Norfolk will band together, amassing resources and manpower to ensure that returning veterans will get the support they need. Servicemembers coming home to Norfolk will be able to effectively reintegrate into society, and local employers will see them as the assets that they are.

Norfolk's not the only place finding innovative ways to support our veterans. The city of New York, along with the Robin Hood Foundation, has applied business metrics and management oversight to find and fund the most creative and effective ways to support our veterans. Their focus will consist of five key pillars: outreach, employment, housing, health care, and education. Together, these focus areas will help facilitate a healthy transition for our nation’s veterans, and begin building a model that can be scaled in communities across the country.

Building on these efforts, the White House is convening a July conference with city leaders and representatives from across the nation, to focus on sharing best practices. Together we will ensure that the best possible care is provided to our veterans, servicemembers, and their families -- now and far into the future.

Rosye Cloud is the Director of Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families Policy.