Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois introduced The Goodwill Homeless Veterans’ Re-entry Program today at the site of their new modular classroom at the War Memorial facility in Peoria. The organization recently received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop and implement the new program. Homeless Veterans throughout Central Illinois will have a chance to receive job training, life skills classes and the ongoing support that is necessary to help them put their lives back on track and re-enter the workforce. A number of social service agencies, veterans groups, faith-based organizations, educational institutions and VA departments are collaborating to refer homeless veterans to the program and provide assistance.
Individuals interested in the program must meet with Goodwill’s team and be accepted into the program. Once accepted, the homeless veterans will begin with a two-week mandatory training period. The ultimate goal is for these men and women to learn the skills needed to work and sustain themselves into the future. A number of area employers have offered to work with Goodwill to identify positions they currently have or may create in order to provide jobs for the veterans once they have completed the initial training period. Support continues throughout the process and well after employment begins.
Two new staff members have been hired for the program. Richard L. Glavin recently retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs where he worked with veterans’ disability claims. He has extensive experience as a workforce development specialist and recruiting and career counselor for veterans. He retired as a First Sergeant (E8) from the U.S. Army in 1988. Janice M. Tamplin most recently served at Goodwill’s General Wayne A. Downing Home for Veterans as a residential supervisor. She holds a master’s degree in counselor education and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Illinois State University. She has worked as a military family member employment manager with the U.S. Army in Mannheim, Germany; as director of student support services at Illinois Central College; and as an associate director of SOAR Student Support Services at the University of Texas, Arlington.
Cris Mugrage, LCSW, is Veterans’ Services Coordinator for Goodwill. Mugrage holds a master’s degree in social work from St. Ambrose University and has worked as an outpatient therapist and long term care for ten years. She will oversee the grant and program development. According to Mugrage, one of the most difficult components is making homeless veterans aware of this type of program. Presently 11 have come in to learn more and nine have been accepted. Most have been referred by another agency. As part of the grant, Goodwill will hold what’s known as a Stand Down to spread the word to the veterans.
The Stand Down will be held Saturday, October 24 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at O’Brien Field, home of the Peoria Chiefs. Stand Downs provide homeless veterans immediate relief from the trauma and isolation they experience on a daily basis. The event offers a safe and relaxed environment where participants have access to short and long-term resources. Services will include: haircuts, showers, clothing and food, medical assistance, drug and alcohol recovery services, legal resources, veterans’ counseling, benefits services, and more.
The first year goal is to enroll 70 homeless veterans between now and June of 2010. Participants will be accepted on an ongoing basis.
“Our grant proposal included 30 letters of support from various agencies, veterans’ service organizations, employers, faith-based organizations and educational institutions. At a recent informational meeting with these groups, we introduced more details about the job training and work ahead. The enthusiasm and support for this program are tremendous,” stated Patty Fuchs, President and CEO of Goodwill.
A total of 98 grants for Homeless Veterans Reintegration Programs (HVRP) were awarded nationally. Fifty of the grants were for new programs, such as Goodwill’s. The other 48 were awarded for the continuation of existing HVRP programs. Goodwill was one of only four agencies in the state chosen to receive the funding.
Goodwill itself funded the new modular classroom and computer equipment that will be used for training and study by the program participants.
To assist in job placement for the program participants, Goodwill is reaching out to all area employers to identify existing employment opportunities or to develop new jobs. Interested companies should contact Cris Mugrage directly at 309-369-8878.
“The idea that all homeless veterans are drug addicts and incapable of working is a myth. These are individuals who previously had full lives, but have experienced setbacks that have led to their current situation. Some simply need a hand up and training to return to the workforce. With the type of support we can and will provide, we hope to dispel some of these misconceptions,” noted Mugrage.