The heavy rain wasn’t going to stop Evan Morrison, intake and outreach specialist for Supportive Services for Veteran Families with the Homeless Services Center, from doing his work.
Morrison, along with two other employees, hop in a white van as they start the search for homeless veterans who might be in need of housing services.
Morrison, a resident of Boulder Creek, has only been working with homeless veterans for a few months, but already he can see the difference he’s making. The majority of Morrison’s work is finding, locating and identifying veterans who are homeless or struggling to find permanent housing.
“With a lot of folks it is nice to be the light at the end of the tunnel,” Morrison said. “What is unique about homeless veterans is their resilience.”
Morrison, who previously spent several years working in hospice, decided to shift his efforts to helping the homeless veteran population earlier this year.
The Homeless Services Center, based out of Santa Cruz, works with a variety of populations, including veterans through its SSVF program. According to program manager of HSC’s SSVF, Anna Lubin, a Veteran Affairs grant issued in 2013 allows the program to provide the services it does.
Morrison locates homeless veterans who may benefit from services one of the two ways. Either by referrals from law enforcement, other homeless or veteran nonprofits or by doing outreach on the streets. Morrison is the only outreach specialist with SSVF, covering all of Santa Cruz County.
With the VA grant, HSC’s SSVF works on assisting veterans with a short term housing plan to get them on their feet again. Each veteran gets paired with a case manager and a housing navigator.
“Our whole program is short term rental assistance. We want the veteran to be self-sufficient in the community,” Lubin said. “It is making sure they can maintain housing, not just simply put a roof over their heads. It is giving them the skills to make sure they stay there.”
According to Lubin, SSVF, with HSC, have developed working relationships with several landlords in Santa Cruz County that assist with identifying if a unit is available and might be a good fit for a veteran in need of services.
Lubin explained Morrison’s role is vital to the organization, because often times he is the first point of contact for the homeless veterans. Morrison helps identify what kind of assistance the veteran needs, such as if he or she needs immediate housing or just a place for the night.
While the job is self-rewarding for Morrison, it does come with challenges. According to Morrison, often times the veterans he meets on the street are missing their I.D.’s or don’t have a mobile phone, making it hard to keep track of the person.
“But it is easy to get motivated to do this work. I have access to the tools that if I meet someone on the street, I can help them,” Morrison said.
Morrison, Lubin and the rest of the staff at HSC’s SSVF work closely with the other veteran/homeless nonprofits in the county, including the Veteran Resources Center, the Veterans Home and the Veteran Center in Capitola. According to Lubin, it is important to not only assist the homeless veterans on finding housing but to find housing in their community.
“It reaffirms my commitment to work in the community,” Morrison said. “It is about making sure the other people in your community are their needs met here.”