VOA-GNY Launches Peer-to-Peer Initiative for Veterans

Caring for veterans has been entwined with the mission of Volunteers of America (VOA) for nearly a century. We have been committed to serving those who have served our country since World War I. In that time we have cultivated a continuum of care for our veterans – programs that provide housing, legal services, vocational training, job placement, services for families, and now peer-to-peer support. This August, we implemented our newest program for veterans, Battle Buddy Bridge (B3).

Battle Buddy Bridge is a veteran peer-to-peer program that provides services and opportunities to military veterans and their families. B3 trains, certifies and employs veterans as peer specialists who then go into their communities to make contact and build relationships with other veterans who may not typically take advantage of the services available to them. According to Sharmin Prince, Director of Program Services, who is supervising B3, peer specialists complete a training facilitated by Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) and are paired one-to-one with other veterans in the surrounding community to help their “Battle Buddies” get access to housing, health care, family support, training, employment and legal services. B3 will also be added to the portfolio of resources within our Supportive Services for Veterans program. The first 14 peer specialists successfully completed their training in August and eight will soon be paired with their mentees. The next training will take place in January 2018, followed by another in spring or summer to meet the goal of providing three trainings within a 12-month period.

B3 was first piloted at the VOA Los Angeles affiliate. The approach is based on research that shows veterans tend to seek out mission-oriented work, and that peer mentoring can be an activity that aids with civilian reintegration. B3 capitalizes on these benefits as well as the fact that veterans who need help have been found to respond much more favorably to fellow veterans rather than civilians who are assigned to aid them. The program works to maximize each veteran’s potential for success, whether they’re just acclimating to home life, or have been in need for some time.

B3 will go beyond the population of thousands of veterans currently in our care at VOA-GNY and reach a larger community of veterans who are chronically street homeless, live in homeless encampments, city shelters, VA facilities, or attend local schools. Sharmin adds, “Volunteers of America-Greater New York Battle Buddy Bridge will be the primary peer-to-peer program in New York City to effectively train veterans to become resource navigators to enhance the lives of homeless veterans holistically.”

For more information on our continuum of care for veterans, visit our service page.