In 2017, Army and OIF Veteran Samantha Norment’s number one priority was finding a home to live in with her three daughters. Following discharge from the Army Reserve in 2010, she worked several temporary jobs but was unable to secure stable employment, which left her discouraged.
After leaving an unhealthy relationship, Norment found herself homeless and decided to reach out to VA for help. VA pointed Norment to local Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services (HVCES) staff. HVCES strives to improve employment outcomes for Veterans who have experienced homelessness. HVCES’ goal is to help Veterans exit homelessness, or help them avoid homelessness altogether.
With assistance from HVCES and the Grant Per Diem (GPD) program, Norment traveled to the Fresno VA Medical Center to enroll in a posttraumatic stress disorder clinic to address her mental health and substance use. HVCES also recommended she volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Our Heroes Dreams to create opportunities for full-time employment. Over the course of the year, she followed their guidance and volunteered at both.
When I first met with Samantha [Norment] to gather information, she knew where she wanted to be. She wasn’t scared to try looking for a new career, which led to me proposing the unpaid volunteer opportunities.
At the beginning of 2019, Norment was more than one year sober and ready to take the next step toward full-time employment. I sat down with her to discuss career goals and encouraged her to apply for an administrative support assistance position at the Fresno VAMC. She did and received the position shortly after.
“When I first came on board, my primary duty was interacting with Veterans who came through the door at VA,” Norment said. “I saw myself as every Veteran that came in — and I still do.”
From there, she was one of the few Veterans selected to take a peer support course, which led to her current role as a peer support specialist. In her role, she helps other Veterans successfully engage in mental health and substance use treatment. Once hired, she organized the first women’s recovery group at the Fresno VAMC with the hope of giving a voice to women who haven’t yet found theirs.
“Sometimes you have to try something new and reach out for help — not trying to handle everything on your own,” said Norment. “I’m a walking billboard of what VA can do. I went from homeless to having my own home. It is possible.”
Norment recently re-enrolled at the University of Phoenix to complete her bachelor’s degree in criminology. Along with her other position at VA, she is also the female resource and outreach coordinator with Women Warriors, which is a chapter of Our Hero’s Dreams. She is looking forward to celebrating two years of VA employment in early 2021 – with her three daughters in their new home.
- Learn about the HVCES program by visiting va.gov/homeless/HVCES.
- Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
- To find up-to-date information and resources on COVID-19, check out VA’s new resource page.
Demetri Henry is a vocational rehabilitation specialist at VACCHCS Social Work Homeless Program. He assists homeless Veterans with finding sustainable employment by providing vocational training resources and mentorship.