By Laura Dunson
For the past six months, the Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center for veterans has been operational in the Cleveland and Akron areas, serving over 3,088 individuals in those six months. The ribbon cutting for this new service was in March of 2013.
In 2009, Obama signed an initiative to end homelessness—hoping to make major advances within the next 5 years. As a result, there was an opportunity for different organizations to apply for funding to create a Veteran’s Center. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs applied to receive money for two locations—Cleveland and Akron—hoping to address both the two very different populations and the distance between them. They were the only organization in the country to be awarded the money for two centers.
“The goal for these centers is to bridge the gap between veterans and service providers,” says Supervisor Barb Karam. “On one hand, its engaging veterans who weren’t involved before, maybe because they had a bad experience before or had no interest in getting help. Then it means connecting with community partners and saying ‘You do a lot of important work for these veterans’ and bringing them into the center as a partner.”
The Cleveland CRRC has been functioning as a drop-in center for veterans who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless. The drop-in center has a “one-stop-shop” feel, where veterans can stop at one location and find a range of services—anything from disability services to community provider locations.
Recently, more social service providers have come into the picture as well. Veterans now can have food stamps processed weekly at the center, while they can also attend weekly informational sessions with Legal Aid and work with law students to work through legal issues. Working with Frontline Services or Mental Health Services, Inc., veterans can now apply for rapid re-housing funds which will help veterans enter housing. There are shower and laundry facilities available for use. Even now, the center is working on developing soft skills programs to help veterans learn skills to help them find employment or housing.
The staff of the CRRC is made up of social workers, counselors, employment counselors, and a supportive employment team—all of whom can help link veterans to help in the community and who advocate for employment for veterans.
Karam explains that the goals of the center are to keep inviting partners to use the space. Despite the wide amount of services already offered, there is still space for many more programs, and Karam invites community partners and social service agencies to join the center. By bringing more community partners in, more veterans can be served in a greater variety of ways.
To contact the Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center, you can call (216) 391-0264 or the National Homeless Hotline at 1-877-4AID-VET. Anyone is welcome to stop by the drop-in center without appointment, which is located at 7000 Euclid Avenue, Suite 202, in the Midtown section of Cleveland. The hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8:00AM-8:00PM. Any veteran is welcome to stop by to see what benefits might be available.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio