About Veterans Leadership Program
1982: Mills were closing. Manufacturing jobs were disappearing. Many Veterans were out of work and out of hope. At this time, a group of Vietnam Veterans gathered and created a job placement and training program for their peers who were displaced in the changing economy. They called it Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program.
Today: Vietnam Veterans continue to to rely on the program, as do many Veterans who served in the U.S. miltary – whether during peacetime or military conflicts. In fact, Southwestern Pennsylvania is home to more than 260,000 Veterans and their families (including 8,000 children), one of the largest concentrations of Veterans in the United States.
The Need Continues:
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the longest period of war in U.S. history. During this war, there has been an unprecedented use of National Guard and Reserve troops, and an unprecedented number of deployments for extended periods of time. Troops are returning from these conflicts after experiencing polytrauma, meaning multiple traumatic injuries. With more troops expected to return from deployment, and because of expected troop reductions, Veterans Leadership Program expects to experience an even greater demand for services.
Major Gaps & Common Misperceptions:
Typically, the public believes that the U.S. government takes care of all of its Veterans and service member’s needs. Though there are many services available from the the government, there is a complicated formula that determines if a Veteran may receive those services. Also, services may not be available to address issues that affect a Veteran’s ability to be self-sufficient, such as job training and placement and affordable housing. Additionally, families of Veterans usually are not eligible for most Veterans Administration services.
These restrictions result in a lack of programs and services for “at risk” populations of Veterans.
- Currently, estimates state that there are 61,799 Veterans in Pennsylvania below the poverty line, placing our state 5th highest in the United States.
- The unemployment rate for young Veterans is 69% higher than the national unemployment rate.
- Young Veterans are more than three times more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts.
“These men and women left their jobs, families and homes to serve our country. Now, as Veterans, many of them struggle just to keep a roof over their heads,” said Al Mercer, Veterans Leadership Program’s Executive Director. “as a community, we are obligated to assist these Veterans.”
Where We Are:
The historic Southside district of Pittsburgh became Veterans Leadership Program’s new home in August 2005. Conveniently located just two blocks from the Birmingham Bridge and a short walk to the Southside Works shopping district, the new office building has ample free parking and is located on major bus lines. The Veterans Leadership Program – Johnstown office is located within the Hiram G. Andrews Center located on Goucher Street in Johnstown. Veterans receive services at our Carson Street office and at our Johnstown office.