61ºF

United Way, partners launch Mission United for veterans, families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – United Way of Northeast Florida announced Friday the launch of Mission United, a community network connecting veterans and their families to critical health, human and social services through case management.

These services include but are not limited to housing, employment, legal assistance and mental health care.

Thanks to Mission United's founding investors, United Way expects Mission United to be fully operational by Spring 2020 in Northeast Florida, serving nine counties.

Mission United will utilize United Way's 211 call center as the entry point for veterans and family members to navigate and access a critical range of available community resources and services.

"For 95 years, we have connected people across Northeast Florida to the critical services they need," said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. "Our community is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country, and we are committed to ensuring we have a world-class way for veterans and their families to access the services they deserve."

One in four residents in Northeast Florida are active military, veterans or family members of veterans. While many are thriving, nearly 3,000 veterans in Florida were homeless in 2018, according to the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University.

Additionally, veterans suffer post-traumatic stress at twice the rate of non-veterans.

"More than a third of Northeast Florida households struggle to make ends meet," said Jeff Winkler, United Way of Northeast Florida's head of basic needs. "Every year, we receive nearly 100,000 calls from residents seeking help, the most common needs being housing, emergency financial assistance and access to food. Our ultimate goal with Mission United is to better connect veterans to the already robust network of local service providers to ease military families' transition to civilian life."

United Way conducted preliminary research last year to determine if the veteran services community would benefit from a Mission United model, which now exists as an effective model in more than 20 United Way communities across the U.S.

\\United Way then convened more than 70 Northeast Florida service-provider representatives, corporate leaders, veterans and community stakeholders to discuss the need for Mission United in the region.

"Our answer was a resounding ‘yes'," said Dan Bean, chair of the Mission United Advisory Council and a U.S. Navy veteran. "While we do not necessarily lack veteran services here in Northeast Florida, we do lack coordination and awareness of these services in the veteran community. We believe Mission United and 211 can provide an easy, streamlined approach to serving our military and veteran families."

To fuel the launch of Mission United, United Way implemented an initial fundraising campaign earlier this year. So far, more than $400,000 is committed over the next three years to Mission United. These funds will provide necessary staffing, infrastructure and technology supports.

Commitments include $150,000 each from CSX and K9s For Warriors. Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Jaguars Foundation, VyStar Credit Union, Southeast Toyota/JM Family Enterprises and an anonymous individual donor have also pledged financial support.

"At CSX, we are committed to working with community partners to ensure our most vulnerable populations are served," said Bryan Tucker, vice president of corporate communications for CSX. "About one in five of our employees has military or first-responder experience. Through Mission United and our CSX Pride in Service initiative, we are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of military service members, veterans, first responders and their families."

"We are proud to partner with United Way on this effort," said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. "United Way's long history of improving lives across Northeast Florida demonstrates they have the expertise, partnerships and community support to get the job done and strengthen our veteran population."

If you or your company is interested in supporting Mission United, contact Linda Olson, director of corporate engagement, at lindao@uwnefl.org.

"By creating a coordinated care network, a clear entry point through 211, a dedicated care coordinator and a robust community of service providers," said Winkler, "we can ensure Northeast Florida veterans no longer slip through the cracks and instead, lead productive, fulfilling, healthy lives. We will help struggling veterans get back on their feet, stabilized veterans further improve their circumstances and all veterans engage in a peer-driven network of support."

To learn more about Mission United, visit unitedwaynefl.org/missionunited. More information on United Way of Northeast Florida can be found at unitedwaynefl.org or @unitedwaynefl on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.