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City moves forward to establish a 'one-stop shop' Veterans Resource Center

Kylie McGivern | Kxan

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is moving forward with the establishment of a Veterans Resource Center. Think of it as a one-stop shop where service providers will have representatives to help veterans and their families.

Jackson Stewart is transitioning out of the military after serving for more than a decade.

“My journey I guess started, you know, 10-and-a-half years ago when I was 17 and joined the Marine Corps,” he said.

Stewart’s journey took him from serving as an engineer, to an explosives expert, Marine Corps recruiter and now a recruiter at Recruit Veterans, where he helps connect veterans with jobs.

“The biggest disconnect that most veterans have, especially in the city of Austin, is that we’re all gunning for an education. In today’s society, you have to have one,” Stewart said, explaining that step can be easier said than done. “Using your educational benefits is hard. You know, they say get online. Get on Do all these things. We’re going to give you this short paragraph and say figure it out on your own. And it’s not good enough.”

It’s one of the reasons Austin’s Commission on Veterans Affairs recommended the city establish a Veterans Resource Center. It found education, employment, health care, mental health assistance and counseling services are scattered throughout the city, making it difficult to access for those with disabilities or limited economic and transportation resources.

On Thursday, city council directed the city manager to locate an office building and funding options and invite veterans service providers to have their representatives available at the location.

“It’s gonna do what the internet can’t, which is shake your hand. I mean at the end of the day, somebody’s going to be able to look these people in the eye and give them the information they need and want in a way that they can receive it,” Stewart said.

The city manager is expected to present the business plan to city council within the next six months. It’ll include what service gaps for veterans exist and ways to narrow those gaps.

Last August, the city reached its goal of housing all homeless veterans in the city. That doesn’t mean there are no veterans on Austin streets. It just means, on average, veterans are housed within three months of being identified as homeless. Using a variety of federal programs and some privately raised funds, the city has provided housing for 682 veterans since October 2014.