Veterans helping veterans overcome homelessness is becoming increasingly common as needs and challenges continue to grow.
PEMBROKE PINES, FL (OCTOBER 28, 2020) — The phone calls, texts and emails from veterans in crisis never pause at Operation Sacred Trust, South Florida’s largest nonprofit serving homeless and at-risk veterans, Jacob Torner said. Veterans helping veterans get to a better place is becoming more common as needs and challenges increase.
Torner, 23, got a job with the local VA-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program three years ago as an Intake Specialist. Relentless hard work, leadership, and unique problem solving skills helped him grow quickly as needs and resources expanded. Today, Torner is the nationally-accredited agency’s Vice President of Operations, helping oversee a $6.5 million budget and 45 full-time team members working 24/7 to keep Florida’s military veterans alive, stably housed, and off the streets.
A job few people can balance
Torner’s responsibilities include evaluating candidates who respond to the agency’s regular job postings on Indeed.com.
“Less than one in a hundred of the applications we receive are offered a position,” he said. “We have to know every member of our team will uphold our sacred trust through every point of contact. That’s not an easy challenge for anyone. Veterans helping veterans is becoming one of our most important resources.”
“Few people can balance the constant state of crisis you face compassionately serving veterans who don’t have a safe place to sleep or are within days — sometimes hours — of losing the place they call home,” Torner added. “Knowing every moment is urgent, that each person you’re serving is a hero whose life is at risk, that you can’t just call it a day at any specific time when your veteran needs help, that goes so far beyond what most people are ready to sign up for.”
For veterans helping veterans, it’s never work
Increasingly, Torner is finding the most promising applicants are veterans themselves who embrace selfless service as a way of life and bring perspective that helps them quickly connect with their fellow veterans going through hard times.
Noah Eisenmann, 24, is a Veteran Engagement Specialist at Operation Sacred Trust. Eisenmann joined the agency just ten days after completing his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, including multiple global deployments. A year after joining the SSVF team, Eisenmann said even the hardest days don’t feel like work.
“Everyday, I get to help veterans,” Eisenmann said. “It doesn’t feel like work.”
As more veterans need help, the needs are growing
Torner said that’s the attitude he’s looking for as the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program continues growing to meet the increasing needs of local veterans impacted by Covid-19, job losses, and South Florida’s extreme shortage of affordable housing.
The program has current openings on five teams: engagement, care, information technology, housing and legal, Torner said.
A passion for service
Despite the urgency of filling open positions, Torner doesn’t ask people to apply or work through traditional recruiters.
“The level of commitment it takes to stick it out in a position serving veterans in crisis at a mission-driven agency like Operation Sacred Trust has to come from the deepest place in a person,” Torner said.
“For people who are driven to serve, among the brightest and most innovative in their fields, and who recognize the debt each of us have to our military and veteran families, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.
More and more, for veterans who have already served for years or decades, helping their military brothers and sisters get to a better place is an opportunity they’re eagerly pursuing.