Thanks for the Human Voice
Posted November 25, 2010 by stokeadmin
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d post about something we’re thankful for around here at Community Voice Mail. The Human Voice. We’re a small nonprofit that runs a big technology operation (~30,000 voice mail boxes all over this country and in Vancouver, Canada), but it’s not the technology that matters most to our clients. It’s the fact that friends and family can call them, hear their voice, and leave them a message. It’s that we can use our voices to send them information about a potential job, a resource that might help them, or just some words of encouragement. It’s that by virtue of a simple voice mail box, people who are struggling can seem to the rest of the world that they are “just like everyone else.” Even in our technology-drenched world, the human voice still has the power to transform and elevate, and bring hope to people who lack it.
Here’s a great and funny piece featuring Studs Terkel, one of America’s best voices. From everyone here at Community Voice Mail, and especially to the people who are using our service, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.
The Human Voice from StoryCorps on Vimeo.
"60 Minutes" on Veteran Homelessness
Posted October 19, 2010 by stokeadmin
Here’s something worth watching and paying attention to. 60 Minutes had a great piece last weekend about homelessness among veterans (click and watch below). The story focused on a Stand Down event in San Diego attended by more than 900 homeless veterans. For three days, these veterans could be seen by doctors and dentists, get help with employment, find out about the (scant) housing opportunities, and tap into the wide variety of services offered to veterans by the VA and to homeless people everywhere by other government and social service agencies. This event, and others like them all over the country, are going to be initial indicators of whether soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan thrive or sink towards poverty and homelessness. Find out what’s happening in your community, and try to get involved.
Here at Community Voice Mail, we are trying to help end homelessness among veterans by giving out voice mail numbers to more than 4,000 veterans each year, and connecting them to information that can help them get jobs, find housing, stay healthy, and get the help they need to get on with their lives. Many of our managers regularly provide CVM numbers at Stand Down events like this around the country. And next year, we’re going to do much, much more (more about this in another post).
At minute mark 10:20, the reporter says “Stand Down can’t track a thousand homeless vets, so there’s really no way to know how many might have picked up a lead on a job or a home…” But of course, there is a way. Give every veteran attending a Stand Down a Community Voice Mail number, tell them that they’re going to start receiving regular broadcast voice messages about jobs, housing and all the services they learned about at the event. Tell them they can also receive this information via email, or on a blog, or using Facebook or Twitter. And finally, tell them that from time to time someone will contact them and ask them how they’re doing, whether they’ve found a job, and if they’ve received the services they need. These are capabilities we have now that could be offered at Stand Down events all over the country. It’s not that hard.
In this age of “social networking,” we sometimes forget how important it is to stay connected to people. Hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless come to Stand Down and Homeless Connect events all over the country each year, and most of them leave these events without a simple way to stay connected to the resources offered there. Every agency offering services has a form where they will take phone numbers, mailing addresses and maybe email addresses, but there is no summing of the parts, no coordinated effort to make it easy to reach every attendee with follow-up information that can help them. They come as individuals, and they leave as individuals, with little effort to bring them into a community or network of people facing similar problems (or offering solutions to these problems, like the agencies or individuals that participate). Without the ability to stay connected to veterans attending a Stand Down event, the value of every service provided there is diminished.
Imagine a day when every homeless person becomes part of an information network specifically designed to increase opportunities for rising out of poverty, to match people with available services, and to increase a feeling of connectedness that people living on the streets often lack. That’s what we’re trying to build here at Community Voice Mail.
Our 2009 Annual Report
Posted August 11, 2010 by stokeadmin
Community Voice Mail has become a trusted voice for isolated people who are in need of timely, helpful and encouraging information. Together with our local partners, we inspire our clients to persist and rebuild. In turn, they inspire us with their strength and gratitude.
The Community Voice Mail 2009 Annual Report has just been released. Entitled “Communication Matters,” it’s a nice snapshot of what we (our sites, our agencies, our clients) accomplished last year. Take a look!
And if you like what you see and want to do more, you can
But most importantly, the next time you see or meet someone experiencing homelessness, stop and talk to them. And ask them if they have a reliable phone number to stay connected.
Unemployment Among Recent Veterans
Posted August 9, 2010 by stokeadmin
Military Times reports today that the unemployment rate among recent veterans (those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001) is rising, and still higher than the unemployment rate for all veterans. In July, the rate for these recent veterans was 11.8%, while the rate for all veterans was 8.4%. The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. for July was 9.5%.
According to another article in the Wall Street Journal, 25 to 29-year olds make up 39% of unemployed Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, and the unemployment rate for this group is 14.9%. Many recent veterans from these wars are returning to the U.S. with traumatic brain injuries and other service-related injuries that make it difficult or impossible to work. These veterans are also returning to a country with a struggling economy and little or no job growth. With combat operations in Iraq ending this month, and the promised withdrawal of all ground troops by the end of next year, there will be a lot of veterans looking for work in the coming years.
Kudos to U.S. Senator Patty Murray (Washington State), sponsor of the Veterans Employment Act (S. 3234), which is designed to improve employment options and opportunities for veterans, and especially focused on transition programs so that returning veterans can move from the military directly into jobs. This bill has made it out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
We serve a lot of veterans here at Community Voice Mail; they make up 11% of our total client population. We’re not yet seeing many of the younger veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan asking for our services, but I fear we may in the future. Most of our veteran clients are Vietnam-era or perhaps Desert Storm/Desert Sheild; 62% of our vets are 45-59, while only 28% are 26-44 and 2% are 18-25. 28% have told us they’re disabled, and 8.5% are women. 86% our of veteran clients list an employment goal when they first get their CVM number. 55% identify as homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
Too many veterans need our services…
Photo credit: Stephen Voss for The Wall Street Journal
Time-lapse Unemployment Map
Posted August 2, 2010 by stokeadmin
Scary time-lapse map showing unemployment rates in U.S. counties between January 2007 and May 2010. See how quickly the economy changed for a lot of people.
(YouTube version here, but it’s not as good).