On Thursday, April 25, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania hosted a Veteran and Military Service Organization Consortium. The event was the first of its kind and brought together 20 different organizations serving veterans in the Philadelphia area.
The goal of the American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces department (SAF), which organized the event, was to address gaps in services to military veterans and their families. Among those in attendance were organizations such as Support for Homeless Veterans, established a year ago, and Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House, started in 1994.
Former Congressman and retired Vice Admiral, Joe Sestak was the keynote speaker for the event. He recognized the importance of organizations that meet the needs of former service men and women and credited their work with a 15-20% drop in homelessness among the veteran population.
Organizers devised several activities to help participants share essential information. Attendees were divided into small groups and given a hypothetical scenario, which encouraged them to discuss how to help one another more effectively. This activity proved to be very popular, as it oriented attendees to capacities inside the room as well outside services used by each organization to meet the needs of their clients.
In addition, a panel of veterans and a military spouse addressed the Consortium about the challenges of leaving the military and building a civilian life. Their presentation touched issues concerning housing, employment and continuing education, and organizers plan to address each of these issues individually in future Consortium meetings, which will be held four times a year.
Finally, an open roundtable discussion allowed participants to have a frank discussion about improving services and best practices. Organizers hope that this kind of collaboration will be enormously beneficial to veterans in our community. Already, an attending organization received utility assistance for their housing project through a contact they made at the meeting.
“People really came to talk and share what knew,” said Erika Landry, an employee with Americorps Vista at the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania and organizer for the Consortium, “From beginning to end we were overwhelmed with the participation from our partner organizations, which really helped facilitate the conversation and collaboration of the entire day, allowing us to get great insight about where to go from here”.
For referrals to military and veteran services in Southeastern Pennsylvania, contact (215) 299-4000, 24 hours a day, email us, or visit our partner website for Philly Veterans.