By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

The civilian disconnect that veterans face after they are hired raises challenges in the workplace, according to a study commissioned by Blue Star Families (BSF), an organization that advocates for veterans.

BSF conducts a yearly survey featuring Military Family Lifestyle results and organizes the information gathered into various public resources on their website, including an executive survey, a comprehensive infographic and a comprehensive report.

In the resulting information, researches at BSF found that out of the 8,390 military interviewees, 79 percent “do not believe military compensation is keeping up with civilian compensation,” and 88 percent “feel general public does not understand sacrifices made by service members and their families.”

The 2016 data displays its most concerning information regarding veterans at the top of page one on the infographic, the charted statistics revealing that military pay and benefits is the most troubling aspect of life for 56 percent of veterans polled.

This top choice was directly followed by change in retirement and benefits, number of military personnel suicides, PTSD and employment.

“The disconnect exists because of what we, as civilians, don’t understand about the military involvement,” Jay Green, Administrator for the AR State Veterans Home of Fayetteville, said. “It’s like a group or club that they all experienced and we didn’t, and so we can’t understand what it was or what it felt like.”

The Service Year Alliance is an organization attempting to make young Americans serving the nation for at least a year a common expectation.

“When veterans engage in a paid service year, we see good results,” EJ Delpero, the Military and Veterans Fellow for the Service Year Alliance, said. “These opportunities provide transitional support from the military because it takes time to adjust to the civilian world, new skills can be acquired, more connections are made, and all of this ultimately boils down to increased career opportunities.”

This organization works to lessen the divide between military and civilians through this adjustment period while simultaneously striving to educate civilians regarding the costs veterans pay for their service.

“Right now, less than 1 percent of our population serves in the military,” General (Ret.) Stan McChrystal, chairman of Service Year Alliance, said. “And, in my view, we need to rethink and create a system where every young American has an opportunity to serve their nation in other ways.”

Under the mental health and wellness section of the survey, 40 percent of active duty participants said they feel that seeking mental health care would harm their career, further establishing the idea that many veterans do not feel able to request help when they need it.

“I think it’s easier to bridge the divide with this age group than it is with younger veterans because they’ve had the time to come to terms with their service, it’s not fresh in their minds like it is for veterans who’ve just recently come back,” Green said.

Multiple companies actively and publically are working to resolve such conflicts and many are discovering successful methods of bridging the divide.

“Taking off the uniform does not necessarily represent that one is done serving their country,” Delpero said. “In other words, with service year programs, veterans are donning a new uniform.”

Unemployed veterans finding jobs as more businesses pledge to hire

By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

More than 18,400 of veterans who reside in Arkansas are living in poverty.

According to the Veterans Data Central website, the unemployment rate in 2016 ranged from 1.8 to 7.6 percent, ensuring that Arkansas’s 3.1 percent was relatively low when compared to other states.

“Among the 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016, 60 percent were age 45 and over, 36 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24,” according to information found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

As the numbers come to light, many businesses and companies have begun to offer various promotions and support groups to help find jobs for these veterans.

Blair Cromwell, senior manager-opportunity for Walmart corporate communications, explained the ‘Veterans Welcome Home Commitment’ that Walmart introduced in 2013 and guaranteed the continuation of until 2020.

“Since Memorial Day 2013, we have hired 179,489 veterans and have promoted 24,379 to roles of greater responsibility,” Cromwell said.

Other large corporations have also taken up the initiative of hiring veterans with an intent to reduce the poverty and homelessness that accompanies many with their return to the country after fighting wars abroad.

Starbucks featured a new pledge on their website to hire 15,000 more veterans, as they have already employed more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses since 2013, according to their website.

“Today, Americans know fewer veterans than any other generation,” the large, beginning header on read. The article quoted veteran employees from various Starbucks locations describing their everyday jobs working with civilians.

“In the next 10 years, more than two-thirds of veterans will be over the age of 65,” according to the Veterans Data Central website.

Amazon joined the trend with their announcement in May 2016 to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021—over two times the number of veterans they employ.

Similarly to Starbucks, Amazon’s employment page of their website highlights the Amazon Warriors, a group of employees that have joined in support of veterans as well as current military personnel.

Angela Seawood Williams, assistant vice chancellor for career services and executive director of the Career Development Center, described the program’s services as providing “career counseling, resume reviews, mock interviews, and job search strategies.”

“Our career advisors have received special training regarding how to assist veterans with converting their military resumes to civilian resumes,” Williams said, “and they are aware of specific veterans’ job search resources.”

The CDC also has a VetSuccess Career counselor on campus specifically to help veteran students who are searching for a job.

Student Veterans, another organization on campus, was put in place to make veterans attending the university feel not as lonely, President of Student Veterans Derek Calhoun said, a veteran himself.

“Experience is very heavy in this job,” Calhoun said. “The culture in the military is very different, and the last president lacked communication with the members.”

Hiring veterans in positions like Calhoun’s can be beneficial to businesses that deal with veteran customers regularly, as sometimes it is easier to relate to someone who has had the same experience as you, Calhoun said.

Identifying veterans on campus and approaching them about joining Student Veterans is another part of Calhoun’s job description, one that would be even more difficult for a civilian president.

“It’s like playing ‘Where’s Waldo,’ but there’s so many Waldos I can’t possibly find them all,” Calhoun said.

More than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year, each of whom have a better opportunity of being hired because of these recent pledges, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Report: Women Veterans More Likely to Pursue Higher Education

By Andrea Johnson

The Razorback Reporter

Thirty-four percent of military-affiliated students last year at the UofA were women. Even though men make up the majority of that population, a national report shows that women veterans are more likely than men to pursue and complete a college education.

A 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report showed that 44.3 percent of women veterans enrolled in college compared to 36.5 percent of men. Women also had a higher graduation rate with a bachelor’s (20.7 percent) or advanced degree (13.8 percent). Among men veterans, 15.9 percent earned bachelor’s degrees and 10.7 percent earned advanced degrees.

Women represented about 9.4 percent of veterans in 2015, according to the most recent Women’s Veteran Report.

The higher percent of women veterans enrolling could be attributed to the their being younger than the male veteran population, according to the report. More women veterans fell within the youngest age group of ages 17-24 than men. The median age of female veterans in 2015 was 50 while for men it was 65.

Carrie Mize, a junior at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, served in the Army for four years before settling in Fort Smith in 2008. She worked at a day care center and as a stay-at-home mom until she decided to use her veterans benefits to pursue a college degree in early childhood education, she said.

At age 31, she decided to enroll at UAFS in 2015. Because she did not finish high school, she feared failure at the college level, she said. But her ability to cover all college expenses using her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and the state-sponsored Academic Challenge Scholarship for non-traditional students motivated her to try.

“It would be silly not to use (benefits),” Mize said. “I had to build up the courage to go back, but I did have the money.”

Finding balance between being a mom of three children, a wife and a college student became her greatest challenge, she said. After a couple semesters and late-night study sessions, she thinks she has figured it out. Her husband commutes to work in Fayetteville, and she credits him for helping her succeed.

The same determination that kept her going in the Army helps her persevere toward graduation, Mize said.

“I’m an overachiever and I’m scared of failure,” she said. “I wasn’t going to fail. I was going to push through it and make it to the end.”

Jovanna Lopez, a freshman at Northwest Arkansas Community College, served four and a half years in the Army before beginning her college education this fall.

As a senior in high school, she did not feel prepared to pursue higher education, she said. She enlisted in November 2011, graduated from Rogers Heritage High School in May 2012 and left for training the following August.

“I was kind of the one who wasn’t expected to do it, so it was kind of fun to do something that wasn’t expected of me,” Lopez said.

On the NWACC campus, Lopez finds it difficult to determine who affiliates with the military, she said.

Clues such as a military patch or American flag on a cap, bag or tattoo helps identify affiliated people, but she does not see many women “going out of their way to do something with the military or show that they were in the military,” Lopez said.

This semester, 409 military-affiliated students enrolled at NWACC – 80 are female – said Dianna Portillo, director of Veteran Resources at NWACC.

Lopez also receives benefits through a Post 9/11 GI Bill that covers her education costs. She tried earning course credit through online classes but decided the classroom environment fit her learning style better, she said.

Katie Rose Martin, a second-year student at the UA School of Law, served in the Army, 2009-2014, while completing her bachelor’s degree through the online American Military University. She completed eight-week courses without breaks and finished a four-year degree program in two years, she said.

While serving in the Army, her undergraduate education costs were covered. As a law student, her costs are covered through Vocational Rehabilitation benefits, she said.

Martin joined the military for education and health benefits and to gain structure in her life, she said. Before she joined, she made poor decisions and lacked direction in life, but her military experiences helped her mature.

Earning her bachelor’s degree while serving in the Army proved to Martin that she could accomplish more than others might expect of her, she said.

“I know from the military that if I focus and have a goal and just keep that in mind – whatever that goal is – I can accomplish it while at the same knowing that I do have limitations,” Martin said.

The UA student population might comprise more military-affiliated female students than reported, but enrolling UA students are not required to designate military affiliation, just as students may choose whether to identify their race or ethnicity, said Erika Gamboa, director of the UA Veterans Resource and Information Center. At the UofA, 1,382 students self-identified as a military-affiliated student last year.

The 2016 UA female student population is 52 percent of the average total population of 26,154, according to enrollment reports. The preliminary enrollment report for fall 2017 showed continued majority-female enrollment at 52 percent.

By 2043, women are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living Veterans – a projected 2.4 million, according to a VA report. Last year, the population of women Veterans reached 2.05 million, with 21,361 1iving in Arkansas.

UA Bridges the Gap with Veterans

By Veronica Torres
The Razorback Reporter

The more than 1,300 students who have a military affiliation are working with UA officials to ease their college transition through outreach and assistance.
Erika Gamboa, director of the Veterans Resource and Information Center relates service members’ introduction to university life to that of students without military affiliation.
Many students without military affiliation seek help from counselors in high school and some learned through university tours and through their own experience.
Most students affiliated with the military, however, come from active duty, Gamboa said.
Senior James LaRocco came to the university after serving in the Army.
All students experience similar application hurdles, regardless of their military status; figuring out how to pay for school and enrolling in classes, for example.
There are generally two types of military affiliates, active duty and reserve.
Active duty refers to someone who is in the military 24/7 with a normal contract of four years, but some retire, Gamboa said.
LaRocco served on active duty for nine years and was deployed three times.
Students communicate with faculty so as to stay on track with school to not get behind, Gamboa said.
Sometimes professors have good communication sometimes they have not so good communication, Larocco said.
LaRocco is a physical education teacher intern and his professor has been helpful an open line of communication, he said.
In regard to paying for school, the university uses two GI Bills to help students, and the UofA is a yellow ribbon school.
“The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program) is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows veterans to attend private schools and graduate programs costing more than the state tuition cap,” according to the New GI Bill website. “Under the program, participating colleges and universities must offer a veterans-only scholarship which the VA will then match up to the full cost of tuition and fees.”
Students also are eligible for financial aid from the university. Applicable students are given $1,000 from the university and the VA matches that to lower tuition cost by $2,000, Gamboa said.
The Veterans Resource and Information Center has multiple partnerships across campus and Fayetteville to help students in other ways.
The center works with Counseling and Psychology Services, the Center for Education Access and Veterans Affairs and mental health counselors outside of the university.
They have created different groups since the beginning in 2009, but have a student veterans’ Registered Student Organizations on campus. The RSO has a small turnout but is hoping to grow. The RSO has approximately 150 members with five active members, said senior Derrick Calhoun II, president of the group and a Marine veteran.
“We do have the support, not just from us but from different departments and different students, wanting to help students,” Gamboa said.

Local Homeless Vets could see resource increase

Erin McGuinness

The Razorback Reporter

President Donald Trump proposed to increase funding for Veterans Affairs by more than $7 billion nationally, an addition that might not have an effect on the homeless veteran population in Fayetteville, according to interviews with those who work with providing housing for veterans.

Trump’s agenda “The America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” proposes to increase VA support by 6 percent, or $4.4 billion with an additional $3.5 billion to continue the Veterans Choice Program.

Approximately 60 homeless veterans in Fayetteville do not receive housing services, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, UA sociology professor and Community and Family Institute director.

Two major programs benefit homeless veterans in Fayetteville. Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) provides rapid re-housing for veterans and their families through 7hills Homeless Center. Housing and Urban Development Housing Choice Voucher (HUD/VASH) works through the Fayetteville Housing Authority to provide permanent independent community housing for homeless veterans eligible for VA Health Care.

7hills Homeless Center placed 130 veterans in rapid re-housing during the previous grant cycle, Jessica Andrews, chief executive officer, said.

“Just from the point in time numbers between 2015 and 2017 within northwest Arkansas the percentage of total adults experiencing homelessness that were veterans went up by two percent,” she said. “I mean it’s a very small increase, but that’s still showing us that there is some additional need here.”

If given more money, 7hills would be able to further their outreach and house more veterans through SSVF, she said.

“The SSVF program has been pretty successful nationwide, so we can’t know what the VA will choose to allocate funds to. But it is a very successful proven program,” she said.

The Fayetteville Housing Authority is allocated 125 vouchers to house homeless veterans, Joy Hunnicutt, Section 8 housing specialist, said. The authority was offered more vouchers, she said, but the office will not accept additional vouchers or money.

“The 125 vouchers we have, we always have openings, we never have them completely full, we never have had, so were not going to take any new vouchers at this point in time,” she said.

There are 112 homeless veterans on the books, Hunnicutt said in a previous interview.

The veterans have to be eligible for case management before they enter the VASH program.  Veterans who do not qualify for the program might be a reason not all the vouchers are used, Hunnicutt said.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m ever pointing fingers at the VA because we work very closely with them, but they have to bring us people before we can house them,” she said.

Brian McAnally, Health Care for Homeless Veterans manager differs slightly from the number provided by Hunnicutt. Of the 125 vouchers in Fayetteville, 120 are full, McAnally said. There is a list of 15 people waiting to procure the additional five.

“They (Fayetteville Housing Authority) have told us they don’t want any more vouchers, that is not a decision that the U.S. government makes, so if they don’t want to accept them, they don’t have to accept them,” he said.

President Trump’s budget is just a suggestion, said Heather Neilson, press secretary for Rep. Steve Womack, R. Ark.

While support will increase overall, that does not mean that every VA program with receive more money.

“Our appropriations bill had an increase compared to the number from last year, but just because there is an increase, does not mean that there is an increase for every program under the VA umbrella. That would not be physically sound,” she said.

The fiscal year starts Oct. 1. and it is not official where the money will be allocated to yet, McAnally said. McAnally runs programs throughout northwest Arkansas and Missouri in addition to his work with Fayetteville.

“Nothing is official yet. But it appears that, yes, we will be receiving some additional resources for homeless veterans,” he said.


Corporations Look for Ways to Hire Vets in Large Numbers

By Hermon Negash

The Razorback Reporter

Because employment for veterans is one aspect of the sometimes difficult transition from military life to civilian life, companies and programs try to help veterans find jobs.

The unemployment rate among veterans in the United States was about 4.6 percent in 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Veterans face problems when looking for employment after overseas tours; among them, lacking skills necessary in the civilian workforce. The skills they possess are not easily translated on resumés.

“I can’t put on a resumé that I can assault an enemy fortification or that I can lead a squad of 12 and take as much territory as I want and hold it for as long as I want. That doesn’t work in a resumé,” Starbucks manager and Marine veteran Justin Zaelke said in an online interview on the company website.

Erika Gamboa, director of the UA Veterans Resource and Information Center, and the federal program VetSuccess on Campus try to help solve those problems.

The program, which was created under President Barack Obama’s administration, focuses on job training.

“The goal is that their training leads them to a job. They don’t place them, but they help them get the skills,” Gamboa said.

VetSuccess helps veterans decide which path they will take on their road to employment. Whether it is on-the-job training, attending vocational schools or a four-year institution, the VetSuccess helps veterans acquire the necessary skills to be qualified in their field of choice.

VetSuccess does not place veterans in jobs, veterans have to do some digging to find them. Companies and businesses across the country are poised to help. Walmart announced a plan in 2013 to hire 100,000 veterans by 2018 and expanded it in 2015 to 250,000 veterans by 2020. Tyson Foods has a “Camo to Khaki” program which highlights their commitment to hiring veterans.

Starbucks set a goal to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018 and already has reached that goal, according to the website. Company executives set a new goal to hire an additional 15,000 by 2025.

In addition to veterans, Starbucks has vowed to hire at-risk youth and refugees. Because the Starbucks on the UA campus is a licensed store, meaning it is not independent and usually operates within another entity when opened within a school or a mall, the campus Starbucks does not participate in a lot of programs. Peter Loibner is a Licensed Stores district manager and is based in Little Rock. Although he deals with stores that usually don’t participate in those types of programs, he said he is proud of his company’s missions.

“I love working for a company that recognizes the best and brightest in a diverse fashion,” Loibner said.

The Starbucks on Wedington Drive in Fayetteville is not a licensed store so the location participates in initiatives that company executives plan. Ashlei Carry is the manager of the Wedington location and is an Army spouse. Carry started out as a part-time barista in April 2013 before moving to Fayetteville with her husband.

Student Veterans Group Having Trouble Gaining Traction

Kayla Nunez 

The Razorback Reporter

The U of A has more than 403 registered student organizations and an estimated 50 percent of students are members of an RSO, but the organizers of Student Veterans are having trouble gaining traction for their group.    

Student Veterans has been an RSO on the U of A campus since 2008 and is a chapter of Student Veterans of America. The group helps veterans attending the U of A adjust to civilian life and find others who have been through similar experiences.

While the chapter has been around for nine years, it still struggles to draw in new recruits. 

“It’s hard to rally those troops,” said Derrick Calhoun, President of Student Veterans.

The group presented an ice cream social in the spring, but it didn’t draw many people.  Calhoun said the weather wasn’t quite warm enough yet for ice cream.   

“We supplement what the university does with fun stuff,” Calhoun said, but Student Veterans has to choose carefully what they spend their money on, which is one reason it’s hard to bring in new people.   

Amber Widdowson, Assistant Director for Registered Student Organizations, said that RSOs get their money from the student activities fee. 

“We’ve thought about making flyers, passing out pencils and stuff like that,” Calhoun said, “but then it comes back to lack of funding.  We have currently $97 in our bank account.” 

Spreading the word about Student Veterans and getting more of them actively involved in the RSO was the group’s 2016-2017 mission, Calhoun said, but only about 10 more people were added as members.

Calhoun said Student Veterans has about 100 members but not all of those members are active. 

As of 2016, there were 1,382 self-identified military affiliated students at the U of A.

The Veterans Resource and Information Center sends veterans to the RSO when they come in, but many vets don’t know about VRIC, Calhoun said. 

Calhoun said he wishes the university would do something like send an e-mail about the VRIC to veterans after they register to attend.  He said he didn’t even know about VRIC for a while.

“I just kind of stumbled across it,” Calhoun said, “I eventually found it on my own.”

Despite the name Student Veterans, the RSO isn’t just for vets. 

Buster McCall, Associate Director of VRIC, said joining Student Veterans is a good way to serve veterans for those who aren’t in the military. 

“We have a good one (RSO) that is open for everyone,” said McCall.  “We’re looking for energy in that organization.” 

UA Staff Provide Resources for Student Veterans

By Chase Reavis

The Razorback Reporter

UA student veterans receive benefits and accommodations including financial aid and prolonged time on tests from on-campus facilities.

The Veterans Resource and Information Center, VRIC, staff work with students and their dependents on a variety of college success factors, director Erika Gamboa said. Among these factors are college preparedness, financial aid, scholarships, registration and admission.

VRIC provides information for student veterans and sometimes refers students elsewhere on campus for further assistance, Gamboa said.

“We work with different departments across campus,” she said. “We have partnerships to make sure that the students have everything they need in order to be admitted, be enrolled and graduate.”

VRIC also informs students of career opportunities, because the goal is not for students to “just graduate, but also have a plan afterwards, like a career,” Gamboa said.

One avenue for opportunity is the Sam M. Walton College of Business, specifically Meredith Adkins, director for corporate relations and outreach.

Adkins receives releases from corporations – including Amazon – that are seeking veterans for employment and forwards them onto Gamboa to give student veterans the opportunities, Adkins said.

Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport Services are listed on VRIC’s page on the UA website as veteran-seeking employers, in addition to organizations such as Hire Heroes USA, Show Your Stripes and Goodwill Industries. Hire Heroes USA provides employment workshops, career coaching and job sourcing for veterans, and their work has resulted in the employment of over 18,000 veterans, according to their website.

Adkins works closely with Gamboa to be sure that student veterans get the opportunities meant for them, Adkins said.

From Oct. 23 to Oct. 27, the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity will work with Walton College to present diversity week, Adkins said. The event is “to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace” and veterans are “specifically reached out to as part of that event.”

Beyond campus support for student veterans, staff members also refer student veterans to the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, especially for mental health concerns, Gamboa said.

Student veterans can request accommodations during tests and classes, such as extended time, transcribers and note-takers, but those accommodations must be approved by the UA Center for Educational Access after a meeting and documentation, said Laura James, Associate Director of Student Access for the Center for Educational Access.

“Circumstances and disability-related barriers vary based upon the individual, (so) there are not specific accommodations that students who are currently serving in the military or are veterans typically request,” James said.

The case-by-case nature of CEA’s offered accommodations means that not all student veterans can be assumed to be afforded the same accommodations.

In addition to helping student veterans with general college success, VRIC also works to make sure student veterans who need accommodation receive that accommodation.

“Our purpose is to help these students graduate – all the ones who come through our door,” Gamboa said.

UA Nursing Department Prepares Students to Enter VA

By Katie Serrano

The Razorback Reporter

The University of Arkansas School of Nursing is preparing their graduate students to find the right hospital to work at after a strike at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Little Rock raised concerns about working conditions in June.

Susan Patton, interim director of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, said she had “mixed feelings” about the strike that lasted a week in Little Rock.

“Nurses’ primary job is to take care of their patients,” Patton said. “But if they feel that their working conditions are affecting the way that they care for those patients, they also have an ethical responsibility to speak up about it.”

There were approximately 50,000 job vacancies throughout the VA in April 2017, according to data released by the VA.

After the strike, the hospital responded by implementing a plan to recruit more nurses, start a bonus program for experienced medical and surgical Registered Nurses, and lowering the bed capacity in order to protect and enhance patient care, according to the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

“Here in Fayetteville the nurse-to-patient ratios are well balanced at the VA hospital,” Patton said. “I notice significant differences between the environment at VA hospitals compared to other local hospitals. When our students go through their clinical rotations, I like to visit the VA last because the nurses are typically in a good mood. They are taking care of veterans, who are very service oriented people, and some of the most appreciative patients you can work with.”

One incentive for Arkansas nurses is the VALOR program, which stands for VA Learning Opportunities Residency.

“The VA hires students while they are in school and gives them special training, as well as pay,” Patton said.

Pay also has been an increasing issue for Arkansas Registered Nurses. The annual mean wage of registered nurses in 2016 in Arkansas was $57,630 compared to the national mean annual wage of $72,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, “pay isn’t always the most important thing,” Patton said.

“We tell our students to pick hospitals based on the support system they will be offered,” Patton said. “Although the pay at VA Hospitals may not be the highest, I have seen that taking care of veterans results in the happiest nurses.

Arkansas nursing students also are required to research and apply for jobs themselves while they are students. They must take into account several factors that make it a desirable place to work, such as turnover rates and cost of living.

Arkansas is in the top regional percentile of states with the highest turnover rate, which is the percentage of employees in a workforce that leave during a certain period of time, for Registered Nurses, according to Nursing Solutions Inc.

Although Little Rock nurses went on strike, their pay is approximately 10 percent higher than nurses in Northwest Arkansas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I think this helps prove that the environment is ultimately the most important factor for a nurse,” Patton said.

Patton encourages students, nursing or not, to talk to military recruiters even if it’s something they’ve never considered.

“VA hospitals give special preference to veteran nurses,” Patton said. “Not only do they offer incredible financial support, but from my personal experience, veterans make the best nurses because they are working with the newest technology, and can relate the best to the people they are helping.”

Fayetteville Takes Steps to Control Veteran Homelessness

By Erin McGuinness

The Razorback Reporter

Fayetteville is taking steps to permanently control, or end, homelessness among veterans in the city, a feat that Mayor Lioneld Jordan said in 2014 he thought could be achieved by 2015.

That goal was an outgrowth of President Barack Obama’s goal to end homelessness among veterans. In “Opening Doors,” cities throughout the country were asked to join the effort to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, a challenge that Jordan accepted.

While the administration did not meet the goal, the number of homeless veterans nationally steadily declined by 47 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But in northwest Arkansas, the number of homeless veterans increased, according to data collected by Kevin Fitzpatrick, UA sociology professor and Community and Family Institute director. 

Brian McAnally, Health Care for Homeless Veterans manager, works with homeless veterans throughout northwest Arkansas. 

“The VA has poured lots of resources into our area because we are one of the only areas where the homelessness is actually growing,” McAnally said, citing the growth in northwest Arkansas economy and the highly regarded VA hospital in Fayetteville as attractive to veterans. 

There are approximately 195 homeless veterans in Fayetteville, including those in permanent housing, Fitzpatrick said. Approximately 60 are without housing services, living in emergency shelters, the woods, with friends and in other temporary situations. 

The city’s goal is to reach functional zero, the point when more housing units are secured than the number of homeless veterans in need, said Yolanda Fields, Community Resources director for Fayetteville.

Fields runs the city’s Hearth program, a service that aims to provide transitional or permanent housing for the homeless in Fayetteville. 

“Once you have more units on an average than you have homeless, you have reached functional zero because you can house everybody that is homeless,” Fields said. “Ending homelessness,” is something that is not achievable, she said.

Once the goal is reached, people who become homeless, or homeless people who move to the area, can be housed, she said. 

The city is working with the Center for Community Care to list all of the homeless persons in Fayetteville, their needs and how they can be helped. The platform is called Hark and serves two purposes – as a data base and as a hub for homeless people and others to find service providers including healthcare and shelter.

The Center for Community Care began in September 2016, said Ben Cashion, director of content and training for Hark at the Center for Community Care. The organization was approached by the Continuum of Care in November about a need for a list of homeless people in northwest Arkansas. Through this, multiple homeless shelters in the area that often serve the same homeless people can coordinate their data, and the number of homeless people can be tracked. The data is being collected and should be available in less than a year, Cashion said. 

When the mayor joined the effort to end veteran homelessness in Fayetteville by 2015, “the goal for collaborating with area service and resource agencies to raise awareness and come up with a plan was an attainable goal,” Donnie Osborn, assistant to the mayor said via email.  

Fields hopes Fayetteville can reach functional zero among veterans by the end of the year, she said.