Outreach program tackles veterans' needs

LONG BEACH, Calif. There's just no easy transition from war to civilian life. Just ask eight-year Army veteran Cristopher Hartsock, who went from active duty in Iraq back home to Ohio in the midst of a recession.

"It's just jobs were disappearing faster than I could try and find them," said Hartsock.

The 30-year-old said he failed to find work in Ohio, so he came to California for a job as a car salesman. Then the car industry took a hit and Hartsock found himself homeless.

"If it wasn't for this place I'd be one of those guys on the streets in Los Angeles," said Hartsock.

Hartsock is referring to the /*Recently Separated Veterans*/ Project, a new residential pilot program created by U.S. vets in Long Beach that assists homeless veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is a perfect environment for a veteran who is down on his luck to kind of get things together, physically, emotionally, and socially," said Hartsock.

The program provides free housing, education and job training, and facilitates access to any mental health therapy the veterans may need.

"Coming here, they encouraged and gave me the time I needed to go to the VA to be seen," said Hartsock.

"We really try to encompass what their needs are," said John Scott, RSV program coordinator. "We don't assume we know what their needs are. We ask them and then we cater the program towards them. So it's really a pretty fluid construct at this point, and we're just working off the needs they have."

Thanks to a Boeing grant, the program will be doubling in size, giving 24 homeless veterans the opportunity to succeed.



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