This week, the city of New Orleans received high praise from first lady Michelle Obama for being the first city in the country to eradicate veteran homelessness. Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans were among the agencies honored by the first lady for helping to house more than 200 veterans last year as part of the mayor’s challenge to end veteran homelessness. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “All of us know the hard truth, that this job is never going to end.”

Since 1997, Volunteers of America has been a leader in addressing the needs of homeless veterans through multiple programs. The Supportive Services for Veterans Program at Volunteers of America was instrumental in accomplishing Landrieu’s challenge to end veteran homelessness. This program offers assistance to any honorably discharged veteran that is in danger of becoming homeless or is homeless is the state of Louisiana. In 2014, this program housed or prevented homelessness for 310 veterans in the greater New Orleans community.

In addition, our Veterans Transitional Housing Program that was reinstated in post-Katrina New Orleans provides a combination of counseling for post-traumatic stress and/or substance abuse, access to housing, intensive case management and support services. Those that Volunteers of America serves in this program have a high rate of success in rebuilding their lives. More than 78 percent achieve the target outcome of residential stability, increased skill/income level and greater self-determination. But more importantly, 70 percent still are in permanent housing after 12 months.

Unfortunately, veterans face many challenges. National trends show that post-9/11 veterans, our younger veterans, are also struggling to find work — more so than troops that have served in previous conflicts. Last year, Volunteers of America assisted 125 veterans in securing employment at livable wages through our Homeless Veterans Reintegration program. To increase this number, we look to the business community. The benefits of hiring a veteran extend beyond the tax benefit; veterans possess the many skills and character traits that employers want and need: self-discipline, organization, leadership, teamwork and respect.

Volunteers of America is proud to offer services to those who have given so much to our country and hope that you will join in our efforts. Let’s continue to work together to ensure that no veteran is left without a place to call home or without a livable-wage job.

Jim LeBlanc

president/CEO, Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans

New Orleans