Formerly Berkeley Food & Housing Project

Helping Homeless Veterans Find Employment

For this story, we want to highlight a specific arm of our Roads Home program, the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP). 

Roads Home HVRP is active in the counties of Solano and Contra Costa, and is specifically focused on helping veterans find employment. The goal of this program, made possible by grant funds from the Department of Labor, is to make sure that veterans are receiving a stable income at the same time that they are receiving housing services.

The HVRP team from left to right: Employment Services Supervisor Rhoda McKenzie, Employment Specialist Nichelle Carter, and Employment Case Manager Monica Zambrano

Some of the most common challenges faced by our clients are physical or mental disabilities, gaps in employment, and lack of education or skills. Many clients are coming from living on the streets and have been unemployed and unhoused for a significant period of time. Clients like Gerald.

Gerald had been living under a bridge for two years when he heard about the Roads Home program from one of our partner agencies in Fairfield. It took a while to earn Gerald’s trust so for the first three months, HVRP staff met with him every three days to make sure he was receiving and responding to all the wraparound services that he needed.

Most of our clients have a history of work that involves hard manual labor, but due to disability or aging, they can no longer perform such physically taxing work. We work with the client to prepare them for jobs that they are able to do. Some of the best fields for the veterans we work with are: security guard, delivery driver, and dispatcher.

Between both the housing and employment departments of Roads Home, we were able to provide Gerald with everything from clothing to job training to housing assistance.  He was able to secure a housing voucher from the HUD-VA supportive housing program, and a job at the San Francisco Airport. The last time Gerald came in to our office he was wearing a big smile “I’m truly a changed man from the experience of working with the HVRP program.”

Another client, Joseph, first came to us because he was on the verge of becoming homeless. He had been unsuccessfully searching for a job and was struggling to support himself and his family of six. “I needed a lifeline and I sought out housing services.” Our housing services department referred him to HVRP.

Run by Employment Services Supervisor, Rhoda McKenzie and her dedicated team, HVRP uses what they call a “red carpet approach” when clients come into the office for services. The veterans are always met with kindness and respect as they are welcomed into the program. When a client first comes to us, we sit down with them one-on-one to create a plan to get them to where they want to go. Some of the things that we can do to help prepare veterans for employment include: specific skills training such as computer proficiency, helping them get their GED, and signing them up for certification or licensing.

For Joseph, we were able to help him complete training and certification to become a security guard. “I enjoyed the training I received to obtain my BSIS card which included the regular guard card class and taking my baton permit class.”

HVRP will work with clients for a full year to help them find a job and then once they are employed we will be there to check in with them on a monthly basis for an additional year to make sure they are able to retain their employment.

As part of this program, we also organize job fairs where we bring together veterans and prospective employers in the area. What makes this different to other job fairs is that each of the represented employers are already willing to hire formerly homeless veterans. Many are even specifically looking for employees with a military background.

“My employment success came from teh support and motivation Roads Home staff provided. They led me to where I am today.” – Joseph, HVRP Client

Joseph got a job at National Pro Security and is now overseeing twelve posts. “I enjoy using my experience and skills from the military to work with all types of individuals and being able to interact with them on a daily basis.”  

We believe patience, persistence, and partnership are the keys to helping veterans overcome the initial barriers of homelessness and unemployment. With this program we are able to work with each client individually to help them address their specific challenges and rejoin society.

In Joseph’s words, “I am no longer in a housing crisis and I am able to support my family with my job. Roads Home has definitely brought me to where I am today.”


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