‘Return to Work’ expands services

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Key partnerships and increased focus on outreach help Haven program serve twice as many vets.

According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report prepared by the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 53 percent of separating post-9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment.
According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report prepared by the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 53 percent of separating post-9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment.

By Chadwick Phillips –

Roughly 12,000 veterans are expected to relocate to Southern California in 2016, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California. With an estimated 80 percent not having a job lined up, the Veterans Employment Services program at The Salvation Army Haven in Los Angeles, Calif., has initiated new tactics to broaden its reach.

The Veterans Employment Services Program, also known as the “Return To Work” program, focuses on workforce development skills for veterans. By connecting them with career development specialists, the program assists in developing and targeting resumes for specific jobs along with teaching veterans how to incorporate their military and civilian experience into an interview with a prospective employer.

But first, the program has to connect with veterans. Over the past two years, administrators have been working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative to try to meet veterans where they are. One way staff members do this is by attending both veteran-focused and non-veteran focused job fairs in a bid to engage with veterans and their family or friends, who in turn could refer a veteran to the program.

The Haven also recently initiated a program through Los Angeles 211 that enables veterans to call or text 2-1-1 for a referral to the center that is nearest and most appropriate for them.

Moreover, Call of Duty Endowment recently awarded a grant to The Veterans Employment Services Program to open a second office in the San Fernando Valley and is currently working to launch a third in Compton.

Since the program’s inception in 2010, it has more than doubled the amount of veterans it serves, offering services to over 450 vets throughout Southern California.

“Opening the new offices is allowing us to reach veterans that were geographically out of our reach before,” said Lisa Anderson, Veterans Employment Services program manager.

According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report prepared by the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 53 percent of newly discharged post-9/11 veterans across the country will face a period of unemployment. Although 95 percent of these veterans will not need to utilize their full 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, on average, their periods of joblessness have risen from 18 weeks in the last six years to 22 in 2013.

Meanwhile, the White House has made ending veteran homelessness a national priority. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged in July 2014 to eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County by the end of 2015, before later backing off the statement, saying the effort would take additional time. According to Anderson, efforts to reintegrate veterans into the workforce are pivotal to hitting the elusive target. But it’s a process that’s rarely straightforward.

“Returning to work really is almost like trying to go to another culture and find a job where everything is different from how you’ve been trained to do it,” Anderson said. “We help them understand the culture of the civilian workplace and the civilian hiring process.”

Ashley Moorehead, a Marine Corps veteran who served four years active duty currently lives in Los Angeles. After getting off of active duty, she used her Post 9/11-GI Bill to go back to school and study business.

“There were so many services out there that offered help to veterans, but unfortunately none of them were able to meet any of my needs,” Moorhead said. “I didn’t realize until I needed assistance how hard it was to find a job.”

After joining a group on Facebook, she heard about opportunities The Haven offered veterans.

“They actually helped,” she said. “They actually assist you in every area that you need. They actually understood where I was coming from.”

The Veterans Employment Services assisted Moorhead by tailoring her resume to the jobs she was pursuing. Through mock interviews and seminars, the program prepared her for employment.

“It only took a few weeks. Everything just fell into place,” she said. “I walked into The Salvation Army and they almost immediately helped me find a job.”

Moorhead was hired at Starbucks in November 2014 and quickly moved into the role of shift supervisor.

“I will continue to recommend this program,” she said. “I’m proud to have met these people.”

Anderson said she hopes that with many successes like these, the Return to Work program can put itself out of a job.

“Because we do expect so many more veterans to continue to relocate, this newest expansion is very exciting for us because [Los Angeles] is an area where we really see a lot of veterans locating,” Anderson said. “My hope is that we can be in every pocket and continue to make new partners and collaborate throughout the county so that no veteran is left without someplace to go.”

Aaron Varela Maldonado


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