Help on way for homeless vets
Pilot program planned to give variety of aid
PALMDALE — The city is teaming with Valley Oasis, Northrup Grumman and other community partners in a pilot program to help homeless veterans and others not only obtain housing, but to maintain the employment and supportive services necessary to sustain them.
The program, dubbed “Taking Flight,” will provide housing, job training and employment, all with the goal of making a lasting change in participants’ lives.
The coordinated effort was designed to anticipate and fill the gaps in services where participants might fall aside, Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.
The transition from being homeless into housing, education and the workforce can be very challenging, Valley Oasis CEO Carol Crabson said, something taken into consideration when creating the program.
“The partnership is truly a community effort of love,” she said.
Valley Oasis will serve as the intake agency, assessing candidates for the program and guiding them through the services. While the initial focus is on veterans, the program may open to others as well.
Candidates who qualify will receive job training for the aerospace industry through Antelope Valley College’s Accelerated Aircraft Fabrication Program and into jobs with Northrop Grumman.
“Northrop Grumman is stepping up to the plate” with entry-level jobs, said Ken Friend, talent acquisition staffing manager for Northrop Grumman.
The company has already hired five homeless veterans through the AFAP program, he said.
“The part that we’re lacking
is this community that we’re putting together,” he said. “This needs to be a community effort.”
During their education, Valley Oasis will provide intensive case management to help participants “relearn how to learn … so we are building success steps, one on top of the other,” Crabson said.
The organization will also work with Northrop Grumman to provide services once they are employed, training supervisors and human resources personnel in some of the unique challenges these candidates pose.
“This is a very shoulder-to-shoulder process of Valley Oasis and Northrop Grumman working together to make sure when the candidates come through the program, they’re there, they have support through each phase and they find success in the workplace,” Palmdale Director of Neighborhood Services Mike Miller said.
Further assistance in housing will include supportive services using partners such as Mental Health America. Transitional housing could last as long as 18 months to two years, Crabson said.
For its role, the city owns a building with four, two-bedroom apartments that will be rehabilitated and used to house veterans in the program. The property, acquired from the Redevelopment Agency in November 2018, has been vacant since March 2019.
On Tuesday, the city’s Housing Authority approved a loan of a maximum of $750,000 for a prepaid lease and the rehabilitation of the apartments.
The authority also approved an agreement with Valley Oasis to lease the apartment building, perform the rehabilitation work and serve as the intake agency to identify veterans eligible for the program and provide the necessary services to transition them out of homelessness.
Also approved was a Memorandum of Understanding with Valley Oasis and Northrop Grumman to employ veterans under the program who successfully complete the AFAP program.
“The key to it is the job placement, which is something we really haven’t had a paved road to,” Miller said.
While Northrop Grumman is teamed with Antelope Valley College in the AFAP program, the aerospace giant is looking at creating its own training program. It would also provide training for spouses as well as veterans themselves.
Councilmember Laura Bettencourt specifically called out this portion for praise, as military spouses are faced with frequent moves following their spouse through assignments, which can make completing an education and establishing and maintaining a career difficult.
“Spouses pay a really high price for being married to the military, so I personally want to thank you for that,” she said.
Organizers hope Taking Flight will be a model program, to expand not only locally, but also nationally.
To that end, Crabson said they have been in talks with researchers at the University of Southern California to collect data and evaluate the program.
“This is a pilot program. It might start a little small, but we have great hopes that this is going to be something that goes from aerospace to all industry and help us resolve our homeless problems,” she said.
This fourplex owned by the city of Palmdale will be refurbished to provide housing for homeless vets as part of a new program offering a complete slate of housing, job training and employment, all with supportive services, to help address the problem.