The Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative
In 2013, a group of veteran advocates decided to form a Veteran Collaborative similar to what existed in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. A small group of agencies were already meeting monthly at the Red Cross so a meeting was promoted hosted by the County of Orange asking all public and private agencies to attend who were offering services to veterans and military families. To everyone’s surprise over 100 people attended representing over 60 different organizations.
Today, the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative represents over 103 public and private agencies with more than 150 individuals who meet monthly to share information and solve problems. The stakeholders are organized into 10 working groups to address issues that affect the lives of veterans and military families living in Orange County. This is an “all volunteer” organization led by a steering committee comprised of the chairs of the working groups with several members “at large” from the community and representatives from CalVets, the JFTB and the County Veteran Advisory Council.
Much has been achieved in a short period of time as access to services have improved, barriers have been removed, confusion has been eliminated among veteran students and transitioning veterans looking for support, employment opportunities have increased for local veterans, better care coordination now exists among agencies, new funds have been raised including emergency funds for those in financial crisis and new housing projects are coming on-line for low income and homeless veterans. This comprehensive and coordinated system will welcome and connect new veterans and military families to an efficient infrastructure of resources to fully address their needs and personal goals for financial independence.