Life after the service can be an uphill battle for many veterans. Hundreds of organizations exist to help former military members transition back to civilian life, but Veteran’s HomeFront founder Antione Hines believes more must be done for veterans facing unemployment, homelessness, and suicide.
Hines served 10 years in the Navy, and said he understands the struggle many veterans experience following departure from the service.
“I came out of the Navy with my own issues,” he said. “I was looking for a job, going through a divorce, having suicidal thoughts, and trying to be a good father to my daughter.”
He got involved with volunteering, and began to notice veterans going through many of the same problems — and not knowing where to turn.
“A lot of service members don’t know how to connect to resources that can help them,” Himes said. “It’s not that there is a lack of capacity, it’s the lack of collaboration, coordination, and collective purpose among organizations.”
Hines said he established his non-profit in 2013 to connect veterans with the full continuum of resources available, including vet-to-vet programs, housing placement, employment opportunities, recreational activities, and other essential human services.
Veteran’s HomeFront is making progress in establishing connections between veterans and programs that can assist them, but communication between these organizations is lacking, making the process of veteran rehabilitation much more difficult than it should be, Hines said.
“We need to close the gap between the public, private and non-profit organizations that serve our military population. We have numerous groups assisting veterans, but no one is sustaining them,” he said. “Organizations need to determine where they fit in the assistance process, whether that is outreach, food, housing, mental health services, legal counsel, or other areas of expertise.”
Veteran’s HomeFront recently began hosting monthly community forums to establish connections with the various organizations across Hampton Roads that are willing to lend a hand to veterans in need.
During a recent forum, Hines discussed the recent collaboration between Veteran’s HomeFront and the Mission United program through the United Way of South Hampton Roads.
“We have non-profits that can help, and we have boots on the ground that want to help, but we needed technology to bridge the gap between them,” he said. “Mission United has the technology to develop this network.”
Mission United senior director Tanya Canty explained how the program’s online referral platform would function as a hub for the community to find and submit knowledge about veterans programs in the area.
“We have many agencies doing great things, but they are operating as silos,” she said. “The Mission United site will be a one-stop-shop populated with resources for any person or organization that would like to get involved. Hampton Roads currently has 243,000 veterans, so we need all the help we can get.”
Nearly 30 organizations have committed to combining their resources on the Mission United referral platform, which will expedite the process of finding and delivering confidential assistance to veterans in need, said Canty.
“There are so many programs available to help people transition to the next phase of their lives,” she said. “In the military, there is a stigma about asking for help, but the assistance we offer is no one else’s business except the veteran, the veteran’s family, and the organization.”
According to Hines, the project is making headway, but still has a long way to go to become a cohesive network of local assistance programs.
“The community is not there yet,” he said. “But if we are able to establish these connections, we believe we will be able to do great things.”
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