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Veteran Services of the Carolinas offers vets multiple support programs

Posted January 26, 2021 6:00 a.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2021 7:09 a.m. EST

Many veterans struggle with the transition from military service to civilian life. Others manage to adjust.

The pandemic threw veterans like Robert Ray a curve ball. "COVID hit," laughed Ray. "So it was just like everything is coming around you, everything is going sideways, but you still have responsibilities. You still have bills. You have life."

The 45-year-old Navy vet is not alone. It’s why Veteran Services of the Carolinas was first established in the Asheville-Buncombe community’s Christian ministry. The non-profit now has programs that span 74 counties in the state, targeting veterans and transitioning service members.

"We have the fourth largest veteran population in all 50 states," said Brandon Wilson, the organization’s managing director. He oversees four programs, including the SSBF, which provides supportive services for veterans and their families.

The SSBF operates in the western part of the state with a rapid rehousing program. It operates with the help of grants from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

"It has targeted chronically homeless and those veterans at risk of becoming homeless and helps them get self-sustainable and back into housing so they can get back on their own," explained Wilson.

A second program is focused on jobs in 49 counties in North Carolina. The program helps get veterans back in the work force with the help of education and training services.

The third program called "N.C. Serves," according to Wilson, is close to what the N.C. Department of Human and Social Services has created with the "NC Care 360" web-based platform.

"That allows us to coordinate all these efforts across 21 human service domains," he said.

The "Hope" program (Healing, Outreach, Partnership and Empowerment) is a pilot program in its second year of operation in six counties of the state, including Cumberland County, where a large population of veterans live. The program uses the power of peer support.

"So our peer supporters have been homeless," said Wilson. "They’ve struggled with substance abuse. They have served our nation. They’ve suffered mental health issues. But now they are on the right side of the fence, so they’re all certified peer support specialists and they are hitting the streets hard."

Robert Ray says the assistance from these programs has made all the difference for him after he lost his job. "It got me certified as a forklift driver. I ended up getting a great job with a new company here in Fayetteville," said Ray.

Veterans Services of the Carolinas does a lot for veterans, but Brandon Wilson says they cannot do it all. "It takes a community to really wrap our arms around the veteran population," said Wilson.

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