At the 18 January Council Meeting, Vice President Michael Vath announced the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation had recently awarded our organization a Community Partnership Grant of $5,000 towards its efforts to assist in eliminating homelessness among our Lehigh Valley veterans. The Foundation, an important and respected part of the warp and woof of this community’s fabric, whose origin lies 1967 with Bethlehem’s 225th anniversary celebration and the donations of school children and steelworkers among others, promotes philanthropy in order to improve the quality of life in our region, encourage collaboration among area philanthropists, and to serve as a source of information and expertise regarding charitable giving.
The funds will be used by the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veterans Action Committee (LVHVAC), an LVMAC coalition whose membership consists of the leading organizations which address the plight of homeless veterans in Lehigh and Northampton counties and are willing to combine their efforts with those of the local Allentown VA Outpatient Clinic’s homeless team, whether or not they are VA contractors. The committee was formed out of the belief that in order to be successful, outreach, assistance and recovery efforts required more integration and the use of a continuum of care approach in the Lehigh Valley. There was also a need for a forum where these organizations could sometimes problem-solve together with the local VA.
As a result, LVMAC has been a driver in organizations engaging a broader community to solve the problem of homelessness among veterans. It has assisted and advised the VA’s CHALENG initiative, the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veterans Task Force resulting from Joining Force’s “Mayors Challenge” and the HUD’s Lehigh Valley Regional Homeless Advisory Board. It introduced the concept and the need for Stand Downs for the homeless to the Lehigh Valley, finally achieved through the original efforts of the VALOR Clinic Foundation. It sought out organizations to become VA Supportive Services for Veterans Families grantees, when the program was not in the valley. Catholic Services, Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living and Community Hope of New Jersey now operate in our area. It raised the idea to Governor Corbett of what has become the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund to accelerate the pace of addressing the needs of homelessness, among other veterans.
In addition to strategically providing grants for reemployment programs, a healthcare clinic at Victory House of the Lehigh Valley, transportation-to-work support, gift cards for the use of local VA social workers seeking to gain trust with homeless veterans in “pioneer camps”, partially reimbursing financial assistance organizations which can prove they work in the Lehigh Valley, it has created and successfully launched the Warrior Special Assistance Program (WSAP) to address unmet needs – using private funding (originally provided by the Rotary Club of Bethlehem) to accelerate and expand the recovery services available to veterans from the Lehigh Valley in immediate need of assistance when other programs, government and non-government, fail or are incapable of responding. Essentially operated by knowledgeable, local social workers, the program is designed to supplement rather than replace existing ones as needed and is focused on those who can be recovered within a year’s time with assistance, with priority to the current war generation of veterans.
Therefore, partially as a result of LVMAC’s initiatives, the end result has been a community whose endeavors in ending homelessness among veterans has been noted by and remarked favorably upon by others.
We are therefore thankful to the Foundation for recognizing and appreciating our efforts and placing their trust in our spending their money wisely in assisting our community’s homeless veterans.
As of 1 February 2017