For the past two years, Thomas Owens, a Vietnam Era Veteran, has been the primary case manager with the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), a $250,000 annual grant from the Department of Labor to mitigate factors that contribute to veterans being chronically homeless. Prior to working with the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center, Mr. Owens selflessly served for many years as a social worker/case manager with the Catholic Social Services in their homeless and disenfranchised programs.
Mr. Owens has personally helped well over 500 veterans, most of whom were homeless, unemployed, suffering from mental and/or physical illness, despondent, and beaten by the “system” into despair and defeatism. He painstakingly identifies the client’s priority needs and their root causes, and using his extensive knowledge of the Sacramento Community, starts to connect them to the available resources, adding extensive leverage to the HVRP funding. More importantly, rather than passively providing service referrals, he cultivates the client’s active participation in the problem solving and rebuilding process.
One of Mr. Owens favorite tools is the Center’s “Winning the Employment Game (WEG),” a two week workshop for veterans that does a great deal more than just address job search techniques. During this time Mr. Owens, in partnership with the WEG instructor, gauges the client’s work ethic, ability to follow simple orders, sense of timeliness, level of social skills, self-direction, motivation, and readiness to deal with the underlying problems that have contributed to their being homeless and isolated from society. For the client, it is a chance to evaluate feelings, attitudes and past behaviors that have probably gone unanalyzed for years.
Upon completion of the program, many clients are able to rediscover the strengths and talents that once allowed them to be successful in their military career. Others realize how the same negative beliefs and actions that didn’t work for them in the military are still at work in their current lives. By the time the client successfully completes the workshop, Mr. Owens usually has sufficient information to work with them to develop an individualized plan that maps out, step-by-step, the actions that are necessary for a return to self-sufficiency, and to motivate them to give themselves another chance.
Mr. Owens professionalism is confirmed in the HVRP program’s solid performance achievements, as reported to the Department of Labor. While there are two HVRP case managers at the Center, health reasons have greatly limited the other staff member’s contribution, causing Mr. Owens to do the “yeoman’s” share of active case management. For the last annual contract, which ended in June, 258 client assessments were reported, or 129% of goal; employment places were at 157, or 131% of the goal, and averaged $10.96 or 133% of the goal; and retention of employment at the 180 day point was at 148% of the goal. As impressive as these accomplishments are for any agency, it is even more impressive when it is recognized that many of these clients are the “hardest” to serve of the “hard to serve.” Mr. Owens can take a large share of the credit for such accomplishments.