When Texas saw a spike in the rate of homelessness among veterans, Goodwill Industries of Houston took on the task to connect veterans with stable housing and employment.
“At this point in time, we can serve just about any veteran from any war in any conditions with any situation,” says Terry Seufert, the Goodwill’s director of program services. “We’re very proud of that.”
The Houston Goodwill® launched its Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program six years ago, and quickly learned that different sectors of veterans had different needs. The agency has since developed additional programs for veterans, and now serves females who are homeless, individuals who have recently left the military and those who have been incarcerated.
In situations where female veterans are homeless, an all-female staff works with both the veteran and her spouse to help establish a stable home for the entire family. “We needed to provide a safe environment where female veterans could move forward from what they went through and gain housing and employment,” Seufert says.
Service members who have recently left the military often struggle to translate their skills and experience into civilian opportunities. The longer it takes for them to find work, the more at risk they are for chronic unemployment and homelessness. The Goodwill’s Veterans Workforce Investment Program helps these individuals to reframe their military experience into marketable skills. If needed, participants receive vocational training, although the goal is for them to earn jobs within six months. On average, participants earn an hourly wage of $13.50.
Over time, the Goodwill also encountered a large percentage of veterans who had been incarcerated. With this in mind, staff members go into the facilities 18 months prior to an individual’s release and “plant the seeds” about what can be accomplished during incarceration. Three months prior to release, the work intensifies with résumé writing, and securing identification and housing. Then the job search begins. A business advisory council allows local professionals to conduct mock interviews, teach veterans how to dress for success, and help them honestly and professionally explain their incarceration and any gaps in employment.
“To take someone who has made mistakes and see them have the self-respect to make something new in their lives is truly heartwarming,” Seufert says.