Veterans Peer Outreach Internship Program
“Alex is a leader and sets a great example. He knows homelessness. He knows how to talk with the people he encounters. He has walked in their shoes.”
- Natalie Siva, Roads Home Senior Program Manager
Outreach is essential to the success of our Roads Home program. With more than 1,600 square miles of service territory, we cannot wait for homeless veterans to come to us. We must identify them and meet them where they are living – in encampments, parks, underpasses, and abandoned buildings – and we must do so in ways that establish trust from the very first encounter.
In 2012 an Interfaith Chaplain began working with the men in our veteran’s transitional housing program. Her work focused on helping these homeless veterans heal from the moral injury they sustained as a result of combat experience. This powerful work inspired us to create a unique service model which soon became our Peer Outreach Internship.
This 6-month internship is designed from a twofold perspective. It allows homeless veterans the chance to give back to their peers while learning valuable life and job skills, and also provides them spiritual support during their own journey towards reintegration and personal acceptance.
In 2015 we began intensive outreach efforts into encampments and abandoned buildings. The interns accompany our team in an effort to reach chronically homeless veterans who were not connected to VA services. We found that many of these veterans were deliberately avoiding services because experiences they had in combat had left them feeling unworthy of help. Not only were these veterans in need of mental and physical care, but also deeply in need of spiritual care. Our engagement strategy is centered on building personal relationships and trust.
To date, all interns have graduated the program with stable housing and the means to support themselves. One of the graduates now works full time for BFHP.
This unique model has been recognized on the national level at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington DC.