The Augusta Warrior Project helps veterans in Augusta and the nearby community of Aiken, South Carolina.
Executive Director Jim Lorraine says they go out into the community and find veterans, then ask them what services they need. The Project then hooks up veterans with those services. He says “We collaborate with everyone. Our organization doesn’t provide any real direct services, other than navigation. And we don’t provide direct financial support. We look to existing organizations within the community.” And the model is working. The number of homeless vets in Augusta and Aiken, South Carolina has dropped from 195 to six. The Project has also helped 185 vets find jobs.
The program is focused on all veterans. There are about 66,000 vets in the area the Project serves. About 12,000 entered the military after 9/11. Lorraine says while the national Wounded Warrior Project focuses on injured service members, that organization was impressed with the results of the Augusta program. So they are joining together to spread the model across the country.
Over the next two years the Augusta Warrior Project will establish or bolster several community groups throughout the nation. The effort will include major program funding for the community groups selected and mentoring of those groups by the Augusta Project and the Wounded Warriors Project. The first city they are focusing on will be Charleston, South Carolina.
While there are a number of programs available for veterans, Lorraine says organizers sometimes have trouble finding the veterans to help. And vets often aren’t aware of what programs are out there. His team helps put the two sides together.
Lorraine stresses “It’s not that hard. You just have to put the veteran in the middle and keep them as the primary focus. And then bring the resources to them.” He says they help veterans by connecting them with jobs and helping them use the G.I. Bill for education. And that includes supporting them through those academic programs. Lorraine cautions that often veterans don’t complete their degrees because they don’t understand the bureaucracy of the university system. Or they don’t have a clear goal of what courses to take. The Augusta Warrior Project will help them find mentors and tutors to make sure they graduate.
The Project also talks to veterans already working to see what support they need to continue to grow in those jobs. Lorraine points out that employers are excited by that. They see that the program is making their employees better and they become more eager to hire even more veterans.