When Rachel Hagen of Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC) receives a phone call, a veteran is generally in need of critical assistance.

“COVID-19 has certainly increased the number of calls I receive, but the need for housing support in the veteran population has existed in this region for years,” she said.

According to Hagen, though, VNOC provides much more than just housing assistance.

“There is a common misconception that VNOC is a homeless shelter,” she said. “That could not be further from the truth.”

In her program, Transition in Place (TIP), veterans are expected to assume the lease for their apartment within 6 to12 months. Acceptance into the program is selective.

“The ideal candidate has a strong baseline of skills and supports and a form of income that will propel them to the next level of independent living,” she said.

Noting the goal in many instances is for veterans to “literally transition” in place, Hagen said TIP can also help some establish permanent housing.

“We recently helped a veteran create a transition and travel plan that has resulted in a home purchase in Texas where she can be closer to her family,” she explained. “This case was a classic example of how all our services can effect a pretty incredible outcome.”

Tangible program outcomes, noted Hagen, are made possible through carefully crafted
Individual Service Plans (ISP’s). These plans are focused on housing, employment, education, mental/medical health, substance abuse (if applicable) and social/community supports.

“I provide emotional support, empathy, encouragement, structure, and hold veterans accountable when needed,” she said. “Along the way, veterans are welcome to use the TIP office to complete VA paperwork, print, email/mail, and receive supports in completing claims and researching potential opportunities.”

Regardless of veteran and/or circumstance, Hagen said TIP’s service delivery model is guided within “a very clear framework.”

“Each ISP has objectives, goals, tasks to achieve, and observable changes outlined for measurability,” she said. “We work to increase and enhance current skill sets and support developing additional skills needed to achieve financial sustainability and independent living…Helping a veteran secure housing is just the ‘tip’ of the proverbial iceberg.”

Founded in 1985, VNOC provides basic food and shelter, housing, advocacy, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families throughout Essex, Middlesex and Barnstable Counties in Massachusetts and Rockingham County in New Hampshire.