Additional resources for the Santa Clarita Valley’s veteran community are now available at the Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative’s Veteran Center.
A peer support specialist with Los Angeles County’s Veteran Peer Access Network, a program initiated by the county Department of Mental Health, is set to be at the center weekly to help connect veterans and their families with services and support.
“We’re essentially a one-stop-shop,” said Enrique Conchas, VPAN squad leader, who added that VPAN partners with county departments, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and local organizations. “We’re just trying to mitigate the veterans who were falling through the cracks of trying to receive and acquire services. … We try to eliminate any barriers.”
Led by veterans, for veterans, VPAN began as a pilot program in L.A. County last year, becoming the first-ever community-driven support network serving veterans and their families in the U.S., assisting veterans with housing, mental health, workforce development, VA benefits, education and more, according to the Mental Health Department.
After providing proof of military service, each veteran who is enrolled in the program is then connected with a “battle buddy,” who becomes a systems navigator for them, assisting them in finding whatever resources they need.
“We walk them from A to Z,” Conchas said. “If you are seeking the services, we make sure to get to you point of contact. … We make sure there’s a warm handoff and there’s someone that’s going to (take over and) be communicating with you.”
Currently, Conchas said it’s housing assistance that VPAN has been handling most for veterans, especially older veterans.
“There’s an influx of older veterans on a limited income, so right now, the housing is a major issue … and lack of affordable housing options,” Conchas added.
The center also has a part-time veteran service officer who can assist veterans in securing benefits from the government.
With a fully-stocked food pantry, computers and library, the center is a place veterans can go to for supplies, as well as support, with information available regarding referral services for home care, medical and dental services, education, financial and legal services, employment, training and more.
Additionally, the collaborative is hosting a free, informational Visit with a Vet event Sept. 11, which is set to allow veterans, active-duty military and their families to learn more about veteran benefits.
A VPAN peer specialist is scheduled to be at the Veteran Center, located at 23222 Lyons Ave. in Newhall, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday. For more information, visit scv-vets.org or call 661-753-3559. Visit with a Vet is scheduled 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Northpark Village Square, located at 27746-27748 McBean Parkway, in Valencia.