harvey call center ‘One stop shop’ veteran nonprofit honored for Harvey relief

Volunteers work at the Hurricane Harvey Call Center (Courtesy/ Combined Arms)

By Matt Saintsing

A unique consortium of nonprofits in Houston that provide various resources for veterans was honored Tuesday for their around-the-clock relief efforts during Hurricane Harvey.

The Houston Texans and officials from Ford Motor Co. celebrated Combined Arms, a collaboration of over 39 organizations that offer more than 140 services to veterans in the Houston Area.

They are the sole organization to house wide-ranging programs and services for veterans.

“We want to provide everything from career advice, to education, to social, and volunteer opportunities, all under the same roof,” Kelly Land, the group’s executive director and former Navy helicopter pilot, said. “We take a complete, 360 perspective by bringing vets into the system, assess them, and refer them to various organizations.”

Combined Arms is able to provide such unique amenities, which truly are all-encompassing, through big data.

The organization dates back to 2008, when Houston founded their Office of Veterans’ Affairs. The idea eventually morphed into a backbone of nonprofit organizations “that came together to increase efficiency through collaboration,” Land said.

15 of the 39 organizations are housed in their transition center in Houston. They use advanced analytics to connect vets to the programs they need. Land called it “a one stop shop for vets.”  Their mission is to accelerate veterans’ impact on Houston, but they are having an impact themselves.

“We aim to deliver better services to veterans, but also to counteract negative stereotypes,” Land said. “Over time, we want the outcome to change perceptions of veterans.” And they do it with hard numbers and facts.

Services are 100 percent free for the veteran, and the groups all work together in collaboration to streamline the experience and save resources.

“It’s about injecting efficiencies into the system,” Land explained. “If we can have those organizations reside here, then they can divert that funding back into their programs to serve veterans even better.”

And serving veterans they have, including through the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. During the storm, a middle-aged post- 9/11 veteran called the Combined Arms operations center threatening to take his own life.

“We immediately sent out some of our volunteers to do a welfare check,” Land said. He turned out to be a diabetic who couldn’t stay in his home due to Harvey, and he didn’t have the money for another place to stay.

That’s when Combined Arms went into full swing.

The volunteers brought him to the transition center, where he was seen by a mobile VA health clinic on the spot. He was then brought to a mobile mental health clinic, and then the mobile VA pharmacy, but Combined Arms didn’t stop there.

Volunteers set him up with gift cards for groceries. While he was shopping, Wounded Warrior Project and Hope for the Warrior—two organizations apart of Combined Arms— hooked him up with a grant so he could pay the deposit on his new rental housing.

“All of our organizations were collaborating together, here, on-site, to get this veteran what he needed—that doesn’t happen anywhere else,” Land continued.

It’s the stories like this one that led the Houston Texans and Ford Motor Co. to host a lunch for volunteers and first responders. “They wanted to say thank you  for their efforts during Hurricane Harvey,” Land said.

Connect: @MattBSaintsing | Matt@ConnectingVets.com

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