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Statements From Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Loree Sutton on Veterans Day, 2017

November 11, 2017

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“Today is a day to honor the millions of brave men and women who have served us over generations. And today is a day to give thanks to the brave Americans who took up arms to defend freedom, and so many people who have selflessly served,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.“We are so proud to be a city where over 200,000 veterans live, veterans who have answered the call of duty and have traveled to the ends of the globe to protect liberty at home and abroad. For the sacred sacrifice of all veterans across this country, the 8.5 million Americans who call New York home will forever remain in the debt of their service.”

“On this Veterans Day, we join all New Yorkers – veterans, their families, and civilian allies – in honoring those who have raised their right hand to defend our nation’s freedoms,” said New York City Department of Veterans’ Services Commissioner Loree Sutton, MD. “We affirm that veterans and their families are this City’s greatest natural renewal resource, with the capacity for service renewed as they become leaders in their communities. The Department of Veterans’ Services and I proudly commit ourselves to improving the lives the veterans, service members, and their families who call New York City home.”

Since last year on Veterans Day, the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) has doubled in size to reach functional operational capacity -from 18 to 32 staff members. DVS continues to build its foundation as a stand-alone agency and moves into its second year in operations with increased focus on its three lines of action: Housing and Support Services; Whole Health and Community Resilience; and City Employment, Education, Entrepreneurship, Engagement & Events.

Housing & Support Services (HSS): The HSS Unit leads and supports initiatives to expand and improve housing and social service resources available to NYC veterans and their families, and provides assistance to veterans navigating existing resources. Our top priority is working with homeless veterans, developing and sustaining a system that rapidly rehouses all those that become homeless, and working with our public and private partners to prevent homelessness in the first place. Since 2016:

  • Our Veteran Peer Coordinators provided one-on-one assistance in order to place over 250 veterans into safe, permanent housing
  • DVS’s Aftercare Coordinator provided assistance for 182 veterans, directly assisting in successfully preventing eviction for 17 veterans

Whole Health and Community Resilience (WHCR)The WHCR team at DVS matches veterans and their families with opportunities to connect, to heal, to grow, and to thrive. We adopt a holistic approach to veteran wellbeing with the VetsThriveNYC Whole Health program.Since 2016:

  • WHCR far exceeded our original outreach goal to reach 2,000 veterans & family members with mental health services to increase help-seeking behavior and increase social engagement, with actual outreach to over 7,000 veterans & family members
  • Our Veteran Outreach Team regularly provides veteran-specific Mental Health First Aid Training across New York City and conducts weekly outreach in satellite offices at the VA veteran centers

City Employment, Education, Entrepreneurship, Engagement & Events (CE5): DVS is dedicated to helping veterans gain access to educational programs, find fulfilling and sustainable jobs, and create their own business opportunities. DVS recognizes that it's not enough to ensure veterans have a place to live. They need the means to live. And just as important, they need to do work that fulfills them. Also, veterans and often their families are eligible for special benefits specifically geared toward education, employment and entrepreneurship. Yet navigating these resources can be challenging. To address this, DVS’s CE5 team provides vetted resources, one-on-one assistance, and information about various events assisting and honoring veterans. Since 2016:

  • CE5 expanded our City-wide presence from 3 satellite sites to 6, now open in all 5 boroughs, enabling veterans and their families to access DVS staff without ever having to leave their home borough
  • Our Veteran Outreach Specialists represented DVS at over 300 community events and provided in-borough, one-on-one assistance to over 2,300 veterans and family members

Agency-wide achievements

  • For first time ever, NYC has an accurate count of the number of veterans living here. This was achieved through advanced data science work that earned CIO Venkat Motupalli the “Best of New York City Award in Data Analytics”
  • DVS has had a significant impact on improving the lives of New York City’s veterans and family members: since 2016, DVS has engaged with over 10,000 veterans and family members – with a staff of just 32
  • DVS’s Public Artist in Residence Bryan Doerries has reached over 1,500 veterans and civilian New Yorkers in all 5 boroughs with over 20 Theater of War performances thus far. Theater of War includes staged readings of Greek tragedies that spark community conversations addressing critical public health and social issues. All events are free and, over the course of the 2-year residency, will take place in a total of 60 venues across New York City. Prior venues have ranged from public libraries and cultural institutions to homeless shelters and City parks, enabling access to theater for the widest community possible
  • DVS is working on “hacking transition” to turn what used to be called a “break in service” from military to civilian life into a bridge for continued service,” with veterans and their families as leaders in their communities. DVS is pursuing this through two major programs:
    1. Veterans on Campus: a consortium of colleges, universities and private entities dedicated to sharing best practices to better support student veterans and their families. Starting with a kick-off event in September that brought together representatives from 32 colleges and universities, DVS continues to learn from student veterans and academic administrators on a listening tour, with the aim to connect with the 40 colleges and universities with the largest student veteran populations
    2. Mentor a Vet – NYC: a consortium of over 25 mentoring organizations dedicated to aiding veterans and family members connect with peers, mentors. DVS acts as central hub where, on our website, veterans and family members can find the right mentoring organization for their needs, whether looking for career advice, training in specific skills, or just connection to other veterans in NYC

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