“To America’s veterans, our country must speak with one voice: we honor your service, and we enter into a sacred trust with you from the moment you put on that uniform. That trust is simple: America will be there for you just as you have been there for America.”
President Barack Obama
by ROBERT HENTHORN
Four of South Florida’s leading nonprofits with a long track record of service to Veterans were awarded $1 million by the Veterans Administration last week to implement “Operation Sacred Trust.” The initiative aims to provide a model of community collaboration, innovative services, and access to affordable housing to end homelessness among Veteran families.
The group lead by Carrfour Supportive Housing, PAIRS Foundation, Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, and Citrus Health Network will serve 1,000 homeless and low-income Veterans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, an area that has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Veterans have been particularly affected, with over 1,000 homeless Veterans and over 20,000 low-income Veterans living in the area. Carrfour is Florida’s largest nonprofit provider of supportive housing.
“This program expands our capacity to act before a Veteran becomes homeless and to target the problem of family homelessness,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in announcing nearly $60 million in homeless prevention grants that will serve approximately 22,000 homeless and at-risk Veteran families as part of the new Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.
As part of the local initiative, at-risk Veteran families will be offered innovative PAIRS Resiliency training. The nine-hour training is designed to help families strengthen cohesion to overcome current and future challenges to housing stability.
Since 2006, PAIRS Foundation has provided similar training to thousands of singles, couples and high school teenagers in many of South Florida’s most distressed neighborhoods through a $5.5 million Healthy Marriage demonstration grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
A multi-year evaluation of the program found statistically significant improvements in relationship consensus, satisfaction, affectional expression, and cohesion for both “distressed” and non-distressed participants. Improvements either increased or were sustained six and 12 months later, reported Paul R. Peluso, Ph.D., a clinician, professor, and author of three books, 11 book chapters and over 25 articles related to individual, couples and family counseling.
In addition to Operation Sacred Trust, beginning next week in San Diego, PAIRS will train nearly 200 VA Chaplains and behavioral health specialists from key sites throughout the nation to help active-duty and Veteran couples learn skills to strengthen their marriages and families. In 2009, PAIRS collaboration with the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia was recognized by the VA as a National Best Practice in Marriage Enrichment.
Stephanie Berman, Carrfour’s President/CEO, said Operation Sacred Trust will help place many homeless Veterans in appropriate permanent housing and develop the resources to maintain housing stability. For low-income Veteran families facing threats to housing stability, she said the community-centered initiative will help them improve social role functioning, interpersonal relationships, decrease symptom distress, and access a range of supportive services to help them enter affordable housing or stay in their current homes.
Seth Eisenberg, President of PAIRS Foundation, said the organization’s work with Veteran families nationwide has shown evidence-based marriage and relationship education that strengthens family resiliency is key to housing stability.
“Family and marital breakdown is a leading cause of poverty and homelessness,” Eisenberg said. “Helping low-income Veteran families improve communication, emotional understanding, and healthy conflict resolution skills gives them vital resources to interrupt events that often lead to homelessness. Combining these services with access to affordable housing is the foundation to ending homelessness for America’s Veteran families,” he added.
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