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Jerome Ford | Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition

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I'm the program director for the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition non-profit agency. We focus on housing homeless veterans and helping them through substance abuse treatment with the VA. Providing transitional shelter for them as they go through the treatment for substance abuse.

Why did you join this organization?

I retired from the Air Force in 2014. I have a traumatic brain injury. I was injured back in 1994. I was also hurt in 1995. Both were traumatic brain injuries. I was still able to complete my service in the Air Force.
All of us, not just veterans, stumble in life sometimes and a lot of times we don’t have the resources to help us get back on our feet. When I found out there were resources like this open, I just got excited. .
Once I retired, I began to volunteer, working with veterans, working my way up to eventually being hired in my current position. What I enjoy about my job is helping people transition to a life that is greater.
I served 25 years in the Air Force, and I never knew about anything like this in the civilian world. I never knew that these agencies existed. I love it

What are some exciting stories that you hear about in your organization?

I don’t hear exciting stories, I’m engaging in exciting stories every day. I am involved in the outreach programs, where we go into the community, on the streets, and into different agencies. I’m speaking about two dozen times a year, raising awareness for our veterans that are living in the streets, that never knew that our services existed. I‘ve met women and men who lived in their cars with their children and no money.

I get to work with these individuals and help facilitate their transition to the right places and change their lives completely. I had an individual that was in my program about six months ago, who walked into my office yesterday and it shook me up a little bit because I remember how our interaction initially was not positive, but he got it, and he graduated my program. He’s no longer homeless. This is the change I get to see every day. These guys come in on methamphetamines, on marijuana, on cocaine, on alcoholic beverages and what we’re here to do is help show them a different way. Even though we are a 30-day program, we help get these veterans back on their feet.

Can you talk about the struggle from civilian life?

Civilian and military life are two completely different worlds. A lot of employers, first of all, are intimidated because of the knowledge that you hold or the things that you may have been experiencing like PTSD or traumatic brain injury. They’re not supposed to discriminate with you, but they often do.

What are some helpful tips that you would give to Veterans transitioning from the military to a civilian life?

You must do research. You can’t just leave the military and say I’m going to get a job. You need to do the footwork first; Do the reading and research to see what’s out there. I was not aware of anything because I was in the world of NORAD. So before you depart the military, remember it’s a new world you’re stepping into. Now that I’m out here, what I see is that this is dynamic. Veterans should not be homeless in Colorado Springs. There is no reason for for veterans to be homeless in Colorado Springs unless they choose to be. There is an abundance of resources out here to get better and to get housing.

Do you feel that beings a black veteran has unique challenges?

A lot of times the challenges that we face is that when we step into a job interview, and we already have the thought that because I’m an African-American or because I’m black, I may have less of a chance. When we have that perception in our mind, we’re not giving it the all that we have. I feel that way. We have to give it 100 percent all the time and when we are not selected don’t question who we are, that takes away from us. When you walk in with a negative perspective from the beginning, that’s going to show, they’re going to think what they want to think. There’s nothing you can do to control that. So what you need to do is to be exactly who you are, 100 percent.

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