Reaching the “Unreachable”
While VA and other systems of care offer a broad range of services to improve the lives of our at-risk veterans, because of many veterans’ lack of access, inability, or failure to engage in services, these life-saving benefits are often not used by a population that needs it most. These are the cases that “fall through the cracks,” with the most tragic consequences.
Mobile Veteran Outreach (MVO) fixes that crack in the system by delivering one-on-one personalize outreach and engagement activities directly to the locations where this target population lives.
Our “Secret Weapon”
A formerly homeless veteran (now university-certified in psychology/substance abuse disorders) leads the MVO outreach team. Having “lived the life,” and sharing the same experiences, he has developed a far deeper understanding of homeless veterans’ psychology… and a “sixth sense” for how to successfully interact with this population. No clinical staff or social services provider could have this unique ability to reach and engage veterans into services, or assess their needs.
The MVO Director, Rafael, and his service dog, Leo, along with MVO Team Lead Cassandra, drive directly to homeless encampments, gathering spots, tents, freeway overpasses, and alleys, as well as engaging homeless persons individually on the street, where they can directly engage veterans regarding their earned benefits and a range of services to change their trajectory from negative to positive. The outreach, benefits, services, counseling, and all other assistance is free of charge.
Cassandra joined the MVO team in January of 2022. Cassandra comes from a background of working as an eligibility worker for over 9 years in the San Bernardino County welfare system.
When Cassandra first moved to Ventura, she had no idea rental costs were so high in Ventura County that she and her son arrived homeless with very little resources. While staying in her car at night and working during the day, she was able to navigate Ventura County’s homeless services system and became permanently housed.
Cassandra knew after her experience that she wanted to give back by helping other unhoused people navigate the system and improve their situations.
Being new to Ventura County has been both eye opening and rewarding for Cassandra and her son. Cassandra’s father is a Vietnam veteran, which further adds meaning to the work she is doing with unhoused veterans.
Why Outreach Matters
Many veterans simply do not have the means, mobility, sobriety, or mental focus to physically access benefits and services that would greatly improve (or often save) their life. Homeless veterans on the streets are by far the most difficult to serve. They routinely decline contact or services from social services, law enforcement, or faith-based organizations. The vast majority (90%+) are below accepted low-Income, poverty, and “high-risk” thresholds.
But these veterans are also at the highest risk of having significant problems with physical and mental health, substance abuse, injury, and violence. They are the hardest to reach, the hardest to serve, have the poorest quality of life, and are at the highest risk of premature death. MVO saves lives.
ANA and MICHAEL
2 Veterans, living in a vehicle on the street, wife 6 months pregnant
- Ana is an Army veteran who served in Kuwait.
- Michael is a Navy combat veteran (Iraq) suffering from PTSD
- Our MVO team was working with this family for months to get them into safe low-income housing
- Ana gave birth to a baby girl at 3 PM on August 8th
- An hour after she gave birth, the largest nonprofit in the region denied their housing application…because her husband had not turned in his paycheck stubs on that day (He had taken Ana to the hospital instead)
- Our MVO team didn’t want Ana’s baby to be born into homelessness and live in a vehicle
- We went into full crisis mode, and reached out to all of our community partners
- We secured a month of immediate emergency motel housing
- We finally got them qualified for long-term subsidized housing
- This veteran family is now moving toward self-sufficiency, with a healthy baby!
- Our motto: We catch the veterans that “fall through the cracks” in the system
- We caught their baby too.
US Army Veteran, Amputee with one leg, riding a bicycle for primary transportation
- Steadfastly refused VA healthcare and housing for well over 6 years
- MVO director and his unique service dog engaged this veteran on the street
- MVO slowly built a relationship based on trust and care over the course of a year
- GCVF helped procure a new prosthetic leg for this veteran
- GCVF encouraged and assisted with enrollment in VA, SSI and other benefits
- GCVF was instrumental in him securing $22,000 in unclaimed SSI back-benefits
- Mikey has accepted VA housing assistance for the first time in 6+ years
- MVO worked with the HUD-VASH team to move Mikey into a one-bedroom apartment
- MVO continues to work with HUD-VASH to ensure that he does not return to homelessness
Honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy
Has onset of dementia
Forced out of family’s home under difficult circumstances
- Age 82, no proof of military service, no vehicle, no driver’s license or ID card
- Found in a room behind a horse stable – an unsustainable situation
- MVO immediately got this veteran out of harm’s way by working with Ventura County’s Continuum of Care to place him into a motel via Project Room Key
- MVO created an individualized plan to address and repair the underlying causes of homelessness, along with a plan for permanent housing
- MVO helped Frank access his military records, secure a DMV ID card, and research available VA benefits for which he may qualify
- MVO intervened with hospital and social workers to prevent Frank from being discharged into street homelessness
- MVO intensely worked to secure long-term care options for Frank while continuing to provide weekly emotional support and client advocacy
- MVO helped Frank move into a board and care in North Hollywood, where he is still currently receiving the care that he needs