From HVI to Special Projects: Expanding the Mission to End Homelessness
Guest Blogger: Geoff Millard, Director of Special Projects
As I was riding the DC Metro last week, an ad put out by the VA captured my attention. It said, “The words ‘homeless’ and ‘veteran’ should never be used together.” Of course, having served as the director of Friendship Place’s Homeless Veterans Initiative (HVI) for the last three years, and being a veteran myself, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, as I believe most Americans do. But I remember a time not so long ago when this sentiment was not as widely accepted.
When HVI launched in 2009, it was the first time Friendship Place targeted veterans as a unique population to serve. The goal to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015 wasn’t accepted or even known of by many at the time. In fact, when I came aboard and told people that we were going to end veteran homelessness, I was laughed at openly. Today, no one is laughing as we are rolling on all cylinders towards 2015 when the VA has projected veteran homelessness would be at an end.
In its three years of operation, the Homeless Veterans Initiative has made huge strides toward ending veteran homelessness. Some of the successes I’m most proud of include:
- Securing over $1 billion of funding toward the goal of ending veteran homelessness nationwide.
- Organizing a working group to coordinate the effort of the many organizations working on national level advocacy.
- Working to make DC the leader in the nation at housing veterans with HUDVASH.
- Facilitating a mindset shift among policymakers, community leaders, and service providers to one that believes that veteran homelessness can (and will) be eliminated.
While HVI will not continue on for a fourth year – it was never intended to – I’m happy that I will stay on at Friendship Place working to finish the mission of ending veteran homelessness while expanding our advocacy efforts as the Director of Special Projects. This new position will have three focuses; advocacy, outreach for our Veterans First program, and working to expand our mission by building strategic partnerships that increase Friendship Place’s visibility and help raise funds.
The advocacy efforts of Special Projects will stay on track, ensuring that we end veteran homelessness while working on policies to end homelessness for everyone in our great city. We will also work with our program participants to develop advocacy skills (something that can be added to their resumes) while involving our community of volunteers and board members in our advocacy efforts.
Veterans First is one of the many byproducts of HVI’s work, as its funding is a direct result of the SSVF national grant. As Director of Special Projects I will work to market the program to any agency where a veteran might present to ensure that we target this resource to the intended population of women veterans, veteran families, and Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Expanding our financial capacity will be the last facet of my new position. These projects are intended to utilize the knowledge and skills gained from HVI’s last three years so that Friendship Place can continue to evolve and expand in innovative and targeted ways.
If this sounds like a lot of work that is because it really is. But I’m looking forward to the challenge. I have never sought after the easy jobs in life – not in the military, not when Friendship Place took a leap of faith to end veteran homelessness, and not now. This is an exciting time for Friendship Place and an exciting time to become the Director of Special Projects.