By Emily Knight-Smith, Volunteer Coordinator, Sulzbacher
People experiencing homelessness deal with high levels of stress, which further complicates their already difficult situations. The stress can manifest in both physical and emotional ways over the short or long term. There is no group for which this is more true than our veterans facing a housing crisis.
Sulzbacher, a United Way partner, has made helping homeless vets a priority, developing specially-tailored programs and services to meet their needs. Sulzbacher takes a holistic approach to working with veterans and provides safe housing, counseling and behavioral health services, medical care (primary, dental, vision), and, in partnership other veteran-serving organizations, job training and placement, to help vets overcome their challenges and return to living independently and productively. Services are provided at both the Downtown campus and Sulzbacher Village for men and woman vets, respectively.
Sulzbacher’s veterans outreach has also expanded beyond the campus, and now includes three HOPE (Homeless Outreach Project Expansion) Teams that go throughout Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach to meet the needs of our city’s homeless veterans. This program, implemented in collaboration with Changing Homelessness and the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides trained medical and behavioral health outreach specialists to engage and assist veterans living on the streets. The team also distributes clothing, blankets, food, water, and necessary hygiene items.
There are many ways for community members to support our homeless veterans through advocacy and volunteering. Families, friends, and colleagues have the option of cooking and serving a meal together. Physical wellness is an imperative step to recovery for those experiencing trauma and a hot nutritious meal goes a long way in creating a safe, comfortable space for those in need. As a show of appreciation for their military service, volunteers can decorate spaces at Sulzbacher for holidays, especially Veterans Day and the Fourth of July.
The efforts of volunteers demonstrate that people care and helps the volunteers, as well, reaffirming that there is a place for everyone to contribute. Groups can also organize drives of hygiene items for the HOPE Team to use in outreach—consider including a handwritten thank you letter to a veteran. These actions inspire and empower our veterans, adding to their self-worth and confidence. To explore volunteer opportunities at Sulzbacher, visit the United Way volunteer center.
With the support of United Way, agencies like Sulzbacher are able to help individuals in Northeast Florida have hope and reach their full potential. Through the power of partnerships, we ensure families and individuals have access to timely health-care services, better health outcomes and fewer health disparities. To learn how you can join United Way in the fight for community change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.