Closing the Gap Between Veterans and Services

For nearly a decade, the County of San Mateo, Calif. has been working on a comprehensive strategy to promote programs and policies that address the unmet needs of veterans and their families. Recently, the County’s Human Services Agency (HSA) selectedCivix to conduct a needs assessment aimed at better understanding the needs of Veterans and their families, as well as the available services and gaps in services for Veterans who live or work in the county.

“San Mateo County has focused on finding solutions to better meet the needs of Veterans, who are on average about twice as likely to be homeless than other Americans and experience higher rates of certain mental health disorders, such as PTSD, and difficulty finding employment,” said Allison Ulrich, a Civix Senior Grants Manager who advises governments, non-profit organizations, and Continuums of Care (CoC) across the country on housing issues.

Since 2010, the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness nationally has been cut almost by half, but data shows that progress has stalled in recent years according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. As a consultant to the VA for nearly a decade, with experience coordinating housing development activities across 10Northern California counties with some of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation, Ulrich knows the challenges facing San Mateo County well.

Since the County conducted an initial needs assessment in 2014 and created its Veterans Commission the following year the percentage of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the county declined from 13 percent to 4.8 percent –while the number of Veterans being served by the San Mateo County CoC, a collaborative led by HSA, has increased.

“There’s no easy solution or quick fix to meeting the unique needs of Veterans, an aging population whose needs are rapidly changing, but San Mateo provides a case study on how to meet the challenge head on,” Ulrich said. “The needs assessment and outreach study shows that the county has made real, measurable gains in providing support to Veterans. It also provides the data necessary to help them prepare to meet an increase in demand for services in the future.”

Ulrich and a team ofCivix experts created and distributed surveys to Veterans, stakeholders, and service providers, facilitated a series of Veteran-centered focus groups, and conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. The findings and analysis are detailed in a needs assessment report which was completed in June of 2021 – less than one year from the start ofCivix’s contract with HSA.

“Through surveys of a broad sample of Veterans, area service providers, advocates, and key community stakeholders, we were able to assess the gap between needs and services so that the County can successfully direct resources,” said Ulrich.

The needs assessment showed the greatest barriers to unmet service needs are alack of awareness or clarity regarding what services are available to Veterans and their families, as well as where to get the assistance they need.

This and the other findings are informing the creation of an outreach and marketing campaign that will improve Veteran awareness of, and access to, services.

“The information and insights Civix compiled in the needs assessment and outreach study is critical to our ability to fulfill our mission,” said Selina Toy Lee, HSA’s Director of Collaborative Community Outcomes. “They brought to the table expertise across a variety of relevant disciples and a plan of action for engaging our community, especially populations that are vulnerable or traditionally underrepresented, such as women and LGBTQ+ Veterans.”

Beyond San Mateo County, Civix has assisted state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and CoCs with their community development needs for over 40 years. Its multidisciplinary team of experts helps communities employ thoughtful, strategic, and equitable approaches to addressing the urgent challenges of homelessness and housing instability.

To learn more about Civix solutions for addressing homelessness and the needs of Veterans, please contact [email protected]

“Through surveysof a broad sample of Veterans,area service providers, advocates, and key community stakeholders,we were able to assess the gap between needs and services so that the County can successfully direct resources,” said Ulrich. The needs assessment showed the greatest barriersto unmet service needs are alack of awareness or clarity regarding what services are available to Veterans and their families, as well as where to get the assistancethey need.This and the other findings are informing the creation of an outreachand marketing campaign that will improve Veteran awareness of, and access to, services. “The information and insights Civix compiled in the needs assessmentand outreach studyis critical to our ability to fulfill our mission,” said Selina Toy Lee, HSA’s Director of Collaborative Community Outcomes. “They brought to the table expertise across a variety of relevant disciples and a plan of action for engaging our community, especially populations that are vulnerable or traditionally underrepresented, such as women and LGBTQ+ Veterans.”Beyond San MateoCounty, Civix has assistedstate and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and CoCs with theircommunity development needs for over 40 years. Its multidisciplinary team of experts helps communities employ thoughtful, strategic, and equitable approaches to addressing the urgent challenges of homelessness and housing instability. To learn more about Civix solutions for addressing homelessnessand the needs of Veterans, pleasecontact [email protected] ###