There’s this idea in my mind that someday I want to be part of changing lives, and I really can’t think of a better way to directly influence people than by housing and clothing them. So when West Point offered this three week summer academic enrichment opportunity at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, I jumped at it.
At the Alliance, I got a comprehensive view of the problem of homelessness in the United States as well as its potential solutions. The multiple meetings, conference calls, webinars and seminars that I sat through only helped to reinforce the notion that so many people (and more than a few organizations nationwide) are working to ending this epidemic. This is exciting.
Working with Ian Lisman, the veteran’s policy analyst, gave me insight into how government organizations work with one another. I was constantly looking for the biggest factors and reflecting on how I could make an impact someday. Ian allowed me to develop a research and project plan, and answered all of my questions fully and effectively – so well, in fact, that I think I may now actually have an idea of what all these acronyms mean…
The substance of my project consisted of interviewing and analyzing the responses of recipients of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Grant (SSVF), a new grant awarded last year by Veterans Affairs to 85 programs nationwide. I found that, by encouraging collaboration between organizations with different services to offer, this specific grant has been rather effective in serving homeless veteran families. And I was impressed with the degree of passion there is out there to help homeless veterans—passion that, with proper funding, could be turned into action.
Soon I hope to get my boots dirty, so to speak, by serving on the streets and gaining a deeper understanding of homelessness. My current knowledge of government organizations, nonprofits, the lawmaking process, and homelessness is not something I could have gained at the Academy, because there is nothing like a cultural immersion. I will take these skills back to the classroom, and eventually into my future career. The Alliance does quality work, and you can be sure I will be using them as a resource in whatever path I choose.