By Benjamin Miranda Jr.
In my experience working with vulnerable populations in El Paso, our community has always displayed a passion for caring for those in need.
When COVID-19 threatened the homeless populations in El Paso, Endeavors collaborated with The Opportunity Center, one of the largest homeless shelters in El Paso, to help create two temporary emergency shelters to keep these vulnerable populations safe. Additionally, Endeavors collaborated with the city of El Paso to operate the Inspira Shelter during the pandemic to provide a safe environment and connect individuals and families to our case managers.
However, there is still so much work to do. Like many communities, El Paso conducts annual “Point in Time” counts that measure how many sheltered and unsheltered people are experiencing homelessness on a single night in January.
In 2022, the count measured that, on any given night in El Paso, along with other unhoused neighbors, approximately 80 veterans are experiencing homelessness in our city. And that does not include their families.
I believe it is our duty to give back to the citizens who have given so much to us. Which is why I’m proud to work alongside Endeavors to bring specialized care to veterans.
Through Endeavors’ work with unhoused veterans and community members, we have learned valuable insights into what actually works.
Each veteran and each family has a different situation and a different definition of success, and so each requires a different set of services. Some veterans may struggle with undiagnosed PTSD, while others have physical ailments like amputations. Some have children to support, while others feel isolated and alone.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so each veteran requires a customized and holistic network of support to build and stay on their path to thriving. We call this intensive case management, and we’ve been doing it since 2017 when we opened our Steven A. Cohen Clinic at Endeavors, El Paso.
Intensive case management involves assigning an individual case manager to each veteran and helping them develop a plan forward to success.
This process is multifaceted – it requires relationship and trust building. It requires getting to know each veteran and their needs on an individual basis. Do they need counseling? Employment? Medication? Housing for themselves? For dependents? A home in a certain part of town for commuting purposes? It also requires reassessment as the veteran’s needs change.
All these components play a crucial part in the case management that we utilize in El Paso to serve our veterans with our housing programs. We’ve seen this work time and time again.
By providing individualized case management to veterans and their families, we show them that they matter as individuals. We show them that El Paso cares about providing them with a safe environment, an opportunity to find a job, an education for their children, food security, and a commitment to quality of life.
When determining the level of case management we provide to unhoused veterans, collaboration in the community is crucial. Partnering with other El Paso organizations and services has been a transformative part of our programming. No organization can do it by themselves. We don’t have the solution, but we are part of a solution.
We believe part of the solution is to offer veterans a single, accessible location where they can access not only intensive case management, but also the services and partnerships that case management recommends to help them achieve their goals.
For over five years, our El Paso Cohen Clinic location has offered high-quality, accessible, and integrated mental health care to veterans, active-duty service members, and military families and through homeless shelter operations, veteran supportive services, and housing assistance services.
Now, with the advent of our new Veteran Wellness Center in El Paso, we will be able to expand our services while also housing them all under one roof. We believe the VWC, scheduled to open in 2024, will help to bring collaboration and intensive case management to the forefront of our community response to homelessness.
Endeavors is very focused on serving the veteran community and their families with housing across all our three housing programs that we have in El Paso. Together, with the community, we can meet each unhoused Veteran where they are and help eradicate veteran homelessness in our community.
Benjamin Miranda Jr. is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and director of business operations for Endeavors.