If you’re like me you’re aware of the 40,000 military and veterans charities in America. As military families, we’ve grown a healthy degree of skepticism to protect ourselves from scams or just plain disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, most of these non-profits and programs have the best of intentions, but it doesn’t guarantee they won’t be mired down in red tape and never provide the help military families need.
That’s why this milestone caught my attention.
This week NCServes announced they now covers 65% of North Carolina, and is leading a big change in veteran support across America. NCServes is the “state affiliate” of the national AmericaServes program developed by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University.
This milestone is relevant to the military community and a significant shift in veteran support.
Local families and support organizations would not continue to support NCServes unless it is working. The program is successfully cutting through wait times and the complicated maze of resources with varying prerequisites and eligibility criteria. Navigating these resources—a universe of over 40,000 service providers—is cited by veterans in transition as their number-one challenge.
So what makes NCServes different from all the other veteran support out there?
The NCServes networks (anchored by stalwarts like Goodwill Industries and the USO North Carolina) link the state’s veterans, service members and their families to a diverse web of over 200 providers in the areas of health care, housing, education, job training, and legal and financial counseling. The network organizations do the “legwork” for veterans and their families to connect them to the agencies or benefits they need without being overwhelmed by the system.
A good example is Army veteran Tamara Huff. She was a transplant to North Carolina. After serving three years in the U.S. Army as she puts it, “life happened.” She found herself homeless, with no job and no family or support system in the area. It was through her contact with two-year-old NCServes that she was able to start her piecing life back together.
For Tamara Huff the personal impact has been life changing. NCServes put her in touch with resources for housing and employment as well as education. It is often the case that veterans seeking assistance need a triage of resources. Huff was approved for a housing program called Veterans of America that found her space at a shelter. She was then connected to Veterans Upward Bounds which has helped her return to school where she is studying for a degree in hospitality management. She has an interview lined up for a job in Durham Tech’s admissions office and says, “because of NCServes things are finally moving in the right direction…You just have to get connected to the right people and the right services.”