Service men and women often have many questions as they transition from the military into communities around the country, for example:
Where can I get help understanding my benefits?
How do I even apply for them?
Who can I turn to for answers to navigate a complex system?
Who can help when I have issues with a landlord?
Less than 30 miles away from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Crises Line in Canandaigua, NY, is a special non-profit organization that continues to do its part.
I recently had the honor of visiting the Veterans Outreach Center (VOC) in Rochester, NY, where I met with Gary Yaple, president and CEO of VOC and his warm-hearted and talented team. My visit was part of a series of site visits that I have done focusing oncommunity models that connect veterans to Federal services.
Almost 40 years after VOC was founded by returning Vietnam veterans, today their approach remains the same: to serve each veteran on an individual level, to get to know each veteran and their families, and to design individual plans to meet each of their needs.
This approach integrates many Federal, state and community-based resources. VOC skillfully braids together partnerships and resources across government, business, college, and multiple social service organizations to guide each individual veteran and their family to success. Some of the services VOC offers include: employment and job training, residential support for homeless, legal services and counseling, educational and financial counseling, substance abuse counseling and referrals, and peer-to-peer counseling.
Even after 40 years, VOC is continually challenging itself and other communities, to do better. They recently published a guide for serving veterans and families that can assist other communities who are interested in standing up reintegration efforts. To measure progress and focus their program decisions, VOC gathers data on a continual basis. In 2011 VOC provided emergency services and shelter to 107 veterans, touching 3,280 veterans through their Employment Resource Center and supporting over 7,600 clients in their Technology Center. Through these efforts, VOC was able to place 3 out of 4 veterans in meaningful long-term employment positions.
The city of Rochester is committed to welcoming and supporting veterans, one at a time. They truly mean it when they say “Welcome Home”.