Volunteers of America Mid-States have put 56 homeless veterans to work since October, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The group landed the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program grant in July and set about establishing an office at 208 E. Madison Ave. in Athens and in the 5700 Building at 951 Eastgate Loop in Chattanooga. Since then, they've signed up 77 veterans for the program.
Volunteers of America case managers Robert Gibson and Cliff Hightower met with the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition on Tuesday to discuss their progress and their services.
"We want to spread the word and let them know who we are and what we have to offer. We are here to help," Gibson said.
The agency wants to network with other groups to meet the needs of veterans.
Staff usually refer veterans to other organizations like the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program and the Southeast Tennessee Career Center when looking for help placing them in jobs.
Volunteers of America can provide veterans with bus passes, gas cards, gift cards to buy clothes for interviews and work attire if they get a job or need clothes to apply. It can also assist with funding licenses and training to get a job.
Beginning in October, Volunteers of America helped veterans get massage therapy licenses, CDL truck driving licenses and welding licenses. It also sent a veteran to school for electrical certification.
"We help homeless veterans get back to work and get stable once again," said Hightower.
About two dozen members of the Homeless Coalition Board of Directors listened as Hightower and Gibson spoke. Some agencies with the coalition said they had not heard a lot about Volunteers of America.
"We try to keep all first responders to homelessness in touch with what programs are available," said Mark Williams, interim executive director for the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition.
Volunteers of America said its been so successful at placing veterans because it walks with them through each process leading up to getting a job. They help veterans create résumés, help them line up job interviews and get the proper clothing for the appointment.
"We are with them every step of the way making their transition seamless and making sure they have someone to push them along," said Gibson. "That's what gives us the success rate that we have."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.