The fast moving economic impacts from the pandemic will impact San Diego for months to come, and the traditional model of connecting to resources is no longer valid: Internet searches, and even military/veteran personal networks, now unfortunately lead to information that has been made obsolete as a result of the fast changing economy. We hear this daily from our clients and partners. The essential component of military/veteran support in this COVID-19 era is to ensure military/veterans and their families/caregivers can link with a wide variety of personalized, local resources that draw on the deep reservoir of support that is not necessarily military/veteran specific, to include nonprofit, government and business connections. That is the work of VCC.
VCC continues to connect all San Diego County veterans, military and their families to a wide-breadth of local resources. Our core partners, 2-1-1 San Diego, the SD Veterans Coalition, the SD Chamber of Commerce, Wounded Warrior Project, and the County of San Diego, provide the collaborative infrastructure to ensure veterans and military can tap all that San Diego County can offer veteran and military families.
With COVID-19, the need for wide community involvement has only increased. Thus, VCC has outlined the following top priority actions:
(1) Conduct one-on-one needs assessments with veteran/military family clients and offer tailored connections to community support. We have received a marked increase in military/veteran requests for assistance managing day-to-day challenges, as when regular avenues for essential items are closed because of the crisis, when families cannot safely obtain groceries, when families have urgent home repair needs, and when families need student resources due to closed schools. We find this takes increased creativity as many businesses and community programs have been closed by the pandemic and associated social distancing requirements. In this process we have built new partnerships and leaned on our resource members to find additional avenues of assistance.
(2) Assist veteran/military programs in finding needed volunteers and non-monetary donations. In the past two months many organizations have extinguished their pool of volunteers/donations and have turned to VCC for assistance. VCC has aggressively promoted opportunities for community members to give back in this COVID-19 time. We have assisted local organizations in finding pet hosts for sailors deployed on COVID related work, collecting over 900 cloth masks needed for use on the USNS Mercy, and gathering pantry donations and volunteers to support meal delivery for military/veterans. San Diego community members are eager to provide support, and there is plenty to do that can still fall within social-distancing guidelines.
(3) Share accurate and timely information on community resources via social media, newsletters, and remote presentations. We have found our niche here has been increasingly important. While many veteran organizations promote their offering(s), veterans and military know that they can trust us to provide a wide variety of vetted community support programs.
As we get beyond the initial crisis response to the pandemic, we will add the following priorities:
(4) Link transitioning military/veterans with local experts to explore new career opportunities. Personal connections are going to be more important than ever in finding employment in the upcoming months/years and VCC has a wide variety of local experts ready to provide advice and assistance.
(5) Link veterans/military to safe and proven avenues for social connections. VCC will reach out to clients to assess how they are maintaining social connections in the COVID-19 time, and connect them with vetted resources.
Due to the dynamic changes due to COVID-19, VCC priorities will be reassessed on a monthly basis, with input from local data sources*, and core partner organizations, to ensure VCC continues to fill gaps in veteran/military support in San Diego County.
* VCC receives weekly data gathered from 2-1-1’s Community Information Exchange (CIE, a client referral network with over 80 community resource members) and participates on weekly “Military/Veteran/Family Supporting Organizations Sector Telebriefings” organized by the County of San Diego, providing an evolving picture of military/veteran needs.