By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Catholic Charities is looking for veterans who need jobs thanks to a program, funded by the Department of Labor, designed to reintegrate veterans within the community while aiding them in obtaining meaningful job skills and employment within the local job market. Their emphasis is on homeless or formerly homeless veterans.
Lois Bridges, a veteran who served in the Army in 1977 and was once homeless, is working now at Catholic Charities as a case manager with the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP). Bridges said she knows how it feels to be a veteran and homeless. “When an organization like Catholic Charities steps in to help, then you can have hope,” she said. “They are compassionate and are a driving force to assist them to get employment and housing.”
Chamon Williams, coordinator of this program, said Catholic Charities is very proud of providing this service to low income veterans because it meets and unmet need within the community. The Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF), which began last year and is funded by the Veterans Administration, is the second part of the HVRP, also managed by Williams.
Williams said the program’s goal is to assist low income veterans who are seeking employment in developing marketable job skills such as classroom training, occupational skills training, job counseling, interviewing skills, preparing resumes and other referral services.
The program has three case manager locations in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties.
Catholic Charities connects both programs, the SSVF and the HVRP, to ensure that low income veterans who seek and obtain employment are also assisted in integrating into society.
LaQuita Johnson, outreach specialist, is in charge of meeting with businesses within the community willing to partner with Catholic Charities to provide employment to these veterans. Some of the business who have partnered so far include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Starkbucks, Mac Construction and the Prosperity Center.
“Everybody wants to help veterans and especially help training them,” said Johnson.
Toni Jenkins, a case manager serving the Rankin County, who is also a veteran, said this is a great program for low income veterans. “It’s so needed. They help in providing everything to them, employment, housing, transportation. Why hasn’t anyone thought about this before?” she asked Thursday, Feb. 26, during a job search session at Catholic Charities.
Natasha Smith was one of several veterans working with a case manager at the job search workshop. The group was learning how to conduct an online job search.
“It has been a tremendous help,” she noted. The company where she had been working recently went out of business and now she is in the process of looking for another job. She enrolled in the HVRP as soon as she heard about it.
The help she has received from the HVRP program includes transportation, information and resources. “I would not have had a chance to have all these services anywhere else,” she said, adding “. . . being here and able to use this service and talk with these case managers prepares me to find a job.”
She also received assistance writing her very first resumé and with her interviewing skills.
Dr. Gwen Bouie Haynes, director of adult services at Catholic Charities, said Catholic Charities is in need of businesses, agencies, parishes and other companies to partner with to help find jobs for these veterans.
Other supportive services for very low income veterans to promote housing stability include child care, basic home repairs and personal financial planning.
The HVRP manager in Hinds County is Lois Bridges, 769-798-7902, in Madison County Annie Jones, 769-572-1371, and in Rankin County Toni Jenkins, 769-572-2731.
The case manager for the SSVFT program in the Jackson office is Chamon Williams, in Greenwood Melissa Ivory, in Natchez Cynthia McCrary-Jackson and in Vardaman and Jackson Kimberle Neal.
For more information about these two programs or to offer jobs for veterans in the programs, call Catholic Charities, 601-355-8634.