Veterans Generating Change:
The Importance of Hiring Folks with Lived Experience
What would you do if you had to choose between a roof over your head or a source of steady income? For a veteran experiencing homelessness, the question wasn’t a hypothetical one.
I had the honor of listening to Juan’s story. He reached out in hopes that sharing his story would help other veterans feel more comfortable asking for help.
Juan described the difficulty of adjusting from military to civilian life after getting out of service. The government trains you to transition into a soldier but doesn’t provide as much training for returning to life after the military.
Like many veterans, Juan began using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the hardships of integrating back into civilian routines. Eventually, he found himself couch surfing from one friend’s couch to another.
It came a certain point in his life where he decided it was time to ask for help. Juan admitted himself into a facility that helps veterans battling addiction and alcoholism. During his stay, he also found assistance with the paperwork required by the Veterans Affairs office to receive services
He was referred to the National Veterans Outreach Program: American GI Forum, an organization committed to giving “our heroes and their families the opportunities they deserve.”
While completing the intake assessment, Juan asked whether they were by any chance hiring. They were. He applied, interviewed, and got hired on the same day, but there was difficult decision to be made. He had to choose between a job and temporary shared housing (with or without NVOP assistance) or a permanent home placement like an apartment of his own through NVOP.
For him it was a no-brainer- he would find a place to crash while he worked and saved up enough to get a place he could call home. He took the job. In a few months, he was able to move into his own place.
Now, Juan spends every day helping veterans experiencing homelessness as a Client Intake Specialist. His story highlights the importance of hiring people with lived experience.
As someone able to empathize with clients, Juan is able to build a stronger rapport with veterans. He spends his workdays doing something he is extremely passionate about- helping veterans experiencing homelessness.
After a career of serving his country, Juan still felt the motivation to serve his community. He hopes that sharing his story will shed light on the challenges of transitioning from active duty to civilian and give solace to other veterans that they are not alone and that there are people who want to help.