Last Saturday I attended a meeting at the Veterans One Stop Shop where a group of Veterans met to discuss a Survey Assessing the needs of the El Paso Veterans.
El Paso City/County partnered with Combined Arms Houston, UT Austin and Endeavors Cohen Family Clinic created this survey which went live February 5th.
Myself and my involvement within the Veteran Community has been constant since 2012. There has been gaps in services for Veterans locally. In 2015 I proposed a Veterans Advisory Committee to City Council and the motion passeed and we “stood up”.
The Committee itself is tasked to identify gaps in services and every six months and advise/recommended to City Council types of services needed with regard to transportation, housing, education, health etc.
Our 1st hurdle when we formed was transportation. The Committee over a period of 18 months proposed a “free ride” for Veterans with proper identification and disability rating. This came about by identifying about 1% of the Veterans population in El Paso which at any time could be technically “homeless” bouncing couch to couch, shelter to shelter etc. which would be about 475 Veterans.
The whole “meat and potatoes” discussion/conversation was about Veterans who apply for this service would be required to purchase or sponsored by a Veteran Service Organization to obtain a Sun Metro identification card. Keep in mind a Veteran at any time carries up to 4-5 forms of identification that states “Veteran” on the ID itself.
Sun Metro CEO Jay Banisek who is a Veteran himself proposed a fee of $1.50 for an ID. The whole discussion during this 18 month period was centered around this Sun Metro ID for the Veteran. The City Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee proposed changes in Sun Metro hardware/software at the meter on each bus which through research would take at most 90 seconds to upload. Sun Metro didn’t consider that option, the short story was Sun Metro allowing Veterans to have a “Temporary Free Ride” (90 Days) for Veterans provided disability rating, or sponsored by a Veterans Organization. Sun Metro also claimed that they would apply for a Federal grant to change the terms for Veterans from temporary to permanent. That has yet to happen.
This Veterans needs Assessment is just the beginning of identifying our needs in El Paso, this could lead to better opportunities for Veterans locally.
An example, Ft Hood captures 80% of Active Duty Soldiers transitioning to Civilian life monthly. While here at Ft Bliss we struggle to capture .03% of Soldiers transitioning to Civilian life. This survey is also extended out to Caregivers and dependents of Veterans.
Another example would be actually having “Tiny Homes” for Veterans, current City/County ordnances does not allow for the creation of this project. This survey will lead to better opportunities for Veterans in regards to employment and could trickle down to housing, health, education and so on.
There are also Town Hall styled meetings taking place to inform El Paso Veterans and representatives available to answer any questions you may have.
As a Veteran I’m asking any and everyone who has served to take some time and complete this survey. We owe it to those who served before us and those who preceed us to make this happen.