With the help of various community partners including VA Loma Linda, Veterans Hospital, Housing Authority, Lighthouse Social Services, US Vets, and KEYS, United Way’s 211 Pathways Home system has reached an incredible milestone: housing its 1000th veteran.
“Pathways Home is a Coordinated Entry System (CES). We are the portal, the center, of the homeless system, you could say,” explained Marisela Manzo, 211’s Housing Coordination Supervisor. “We house the most vulnerable and the most chronic, those that need it the most.”
While it takes a number of community partners to house a veteran, Pathways Home serves as a vital beginning step in the process. “We are the entrance to all the services. An agency cannot help a veteran without going through us because of the verification process,” Manzo said. “So we are holding their hand pretty much through the whole process and making sure that they’re going to the most appropriate resource.”
Before reaching the agency that is going to help house them, Pathways Home takes proper steps to identify who to help. “We find them, identify them on the streets, we do an intake, and we help through the process and coordinate their housing with the provider,” she said. “We sometimes become a mediator too, and then we try once we get them housed to welcome them home. We give them a welcome home kit and we try to remove as many barriers as we can for them. We help them get documents like their social security card, their ID, anything like that we identify as needed… so they have everything ready for the program that’s going to help them.”
As a veteran herself, Manzo finds comfort in knowing her fellow veterans are in good hands. “It’s a relief,” she said with a sigh. “To me, it’s like to see my brothers and sisters off the streets. Because they have sacrificed so much.”
She also recognizes the large support system veterans have. “The difference on the resources itself, there are an abundance of resources for veterans versus with someone who is not a veteran, it limits what resources we have,” she said. “There’s just more support for veterans too, so it’s not that the quality of resources is different, it is more the resources that are in the community that are tailored more to veterans.”
This strong partnership with veteran agencies benefits Pathways Home in more ways than one. Manzo explains, “We are partnered so in depth with veteran providers that we know the ins and outs to every program, and we know the restrictions. So, we know when they qualify, when they don’t qualify for a program, so we don’t even bother with the programs we know they won’t qualify for.”
Manzo reflected upon what this milestone means proudly, “It means all the hard work that we do, it’s actually an accomplishment. We are so busy operating that we sometimes don’t take the time to celebrate. So, when we housed the 1000th veteran, it was one of the first celebrations all the community partners were all involved in, and that wasn’t about work, it was about celebrating what we do.”
This is not only an accomplishment to celebrate, but also to motivate Pathways Home to continue the work they are doing. Looking toward the future, Manzo stated, “Our goal is definitely to have more capacity, be client-centered, and be able to fundraise to help end homelessness in our community as a whole.”
For more information on Pathways Home or to learn how to get involved as a volunteer, visit 211sb.org or dial 211.