The name Volunteers of America Oklahoma (VOAOK) is a familiar one in the Tulsa area. Maybe, like me, you just associated the name with an organization that helps people with disabilities. However, there is a whole other side to VOAOK, and that side helps a group of individuals near and dear to my heart, our military veterans.
Founded in 1896, VOA has helped those that are vulnerable from affiliates across the nation. In 1993, VOAOK assisted individuals with developmental disabilities moving into communities as a result of the closure of Hissom Memorial Center. Today, VOAOK assists people across Oklahoma from statewide headquarters in Tulsa with offices in Bartlesville, Bernice, Muskogee and Oklahoma City.
In 2015, VOAOK began serving veterans with HVRP (Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program) in Tulsa. The purpose of HVRP, according to Mark Lounsbury, the Director of Veterans Services, is to “help veterans who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness find long term, stable employment.”
The Veterans Services staff are veterans themselves, and are very purposeful when talking to those seeking assistance. In addition to assessing each individual for their readiness to participate in the work force, they also look for needs where other services can assist the veteran, such as mental health, housing, claims assistance, etc.
As part of the employment side, assistance is approached asking the question “Is this issue a barrier to gaining and/or maintaining long term employment?” Some of the services offered include helping with transportation, required work equipment, government issued IDs, and interview preparation.
As we all know, getting a job is only one part of the equation. If you can’t get to work, then it doesn’t matter how great that job is, you won’t have it for long. The Veterans Services group helps with things like fuel cards and 30 day bus passes to help get to and from work, in addition to helping with the first month of car insurance (these services are on a case by case basis).
Another barrier can be lack of government issued identification, which is required for all workers. Mark and his team can assist with getting a state issued ID card, social security card, etc. If a license has been suspended, they are unable to pay fines, but will pay tuition into a DUI class.
Anyone who’s ever interviewed for a job knows how important it is to look their best and feel confident in their abilities. When helping someone prepare for a job interview, the Veterans Services group not only helps with resumes and interview tips, but also provides a set of interview clothes, clothing assistance for the first week of work, and required supplies such as steel toed boots, welding hoods, uniforms, etc. One of the tips they offer (and we could all benefit from this) is to dress one level up from the position you are interviewing for.
When a veteran comes to VOAOK, a team is available to help the individual to be successful in transition to a new job outside of the military. If you know a veteran needing assistance, please refer them to Mark’s team at 918-307-1500.