Ending Veteran Homelessness; smartphones

Smartphones are the smart solution to combat homelessness

From checking the weather and answering work emails to listening to our favorite VA shows, it’s hard to underestimate just how much smartphones have changed our lives.

Jennifer Nemeth, Business Operations and Recruitment Coordinator with the Business Intelligence Team in Virginia Homeless Programs Office (HPO)believes that smartphones are now essential medical devices.

In this episode of Veteran terminationNemeth talks about why the VA purchased 10,000 smartphones for veterans at the height of the pandemic, and how the phones have proven essential when it comes to protecting veteran health outcomes and preventing veteran homelessness.

Listen to “S1EP7: Telehomeless: How the VA Puts Smartphones in the Hands of Homeless Veterans” on Spreaker.

Create a new service plan

At the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency in March 2020, HPO directed staff across the country to significantly reduce direct, face-to-face encounters with veterans.

This was critical in keeping veterans experiencing homelessness as safe as possible by minimizing transmission of the virus, because they were — and still are — a vulnerable population. Like most organizations in the early days of the pandemic, Nemeth recalls, “It got us for a loop.”

Almost all of the Essential Homeless Victim Assistance Program’s services, from outreach activities to visiting shelters and veterans’ homes, relied on face-to-face interaction before the pandemic hit.

Veterans Affairs social workers needed to find ways to adapt and adapt—and fast. (learn more about how the VA responded to the needs of veterans experiencing homelessness in the early days of the pandemic by hearing from episode 1 From this podcast.)

‘huge task’

It is no exaggeration to say that finding a way to maintain strong communication between VA professionals and veterans experiencing homelessness has been vital to protecting the lives of veterans.

For individuals experiencing homelessness, having the most current and accurate information about available resources and what services are still running can determine whether they have a meal to eat or a place to sleep for the night.

With the provision of personal medical care halted across the country, all Americans—veterans included—needed a new way to engage with health care providers. For many of us, telehealth has proven to be a convenient and safe way to monitor non-urgent health issues. But for veterans who don’t have a home, internet connection, or appropriate technology, the benefits of telehealth haven’t been possible.

Thanks to the dedicated VA staff, this quickly changed. “We have a really great veterans advocacy team in our national office who have pursued a huge task with leadership to see what capacity we will have to get devices out into the field and into our veterans,” Nemeth says.

Lying application full potential

After ordering 10,000 new smartphones, VA employees worked hard to get the technology into the hands of veterans as soon as possible.

Initially, smartphones were made available to veterans Hood-Fash Collaborative program that combines VA case management and supportive services for veterans with HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance. They were considered “borrowed devices”.

“This is our way to stay connected to our Veterans Health Care.”

Phones are programmed to only allow VA applications, such as VA video connection. This is an app that allows veterans to quickly and easily meet with VA health care providers via live encrypted video on a mobile device or computer.

While these devices proved useful, the VA recognized that when a phone’s full potential was not used, a veteran could not reach their full potential. “What we found was that there were other needs that veterans had,” Nemeth says. Her team saw phones as tools for veterans to apply for benefits, search for work, and research housing options.

The ever-evolving landscape of COVID-19 has made accessing the full potential of a smartphone increasingly essential for veterans Use rideshare apps When public transportation options were limited. It also helped them secure food and stay in touch with their loved ones.

Our way to stay connected

Nemeth and her team modified the original hardware and purchased additional phones to distribute to “unborrowed” veterans’ devices with expanded capabilities. Veterans also received a limited-term charger and prepaid data plan (usually for one year).

After the first year, veterans have the option to transfer the device to their private plan, which is offered by the VA and major carriers at an affordable rate. Even if a veteran chooses not to pay for a cellular plan, they can use phones on Wi-Fi to access essential services, such as telehealth and the Internet.

In both scenarios, phones prove to be an all-in-one tool for keeping in touch with veterans experiencing homelessness. “This is our way of staying connected to our veterans’ health care and ensuring they’re off the streets,” says Nemeth. “Our keeping in touch with them helps them get permanent housing, get into shelters at night, and we can check in on them.”

charge for the future

We view these devices as medical devices in the same way that cardiology views a heart monitor. or like System of care for spinal cord injuries and disorders You’ll look at the robotic legs.”

The VA also provides veterans with the training they need to navigate and maximize their phones. The Health care system in A-Salem The staff has developed an innovative approach to Teaching training on a smartphone To keep veterans involved in Veterans Health care services and to increase the technological skills of veterans.

The benefits of phones are not only technical. They can also facilitate important emotional benefits. “You hear stories from veterans who saw their daughter on FaceTime for the first time in 10 years. These are the things they need to support their mental health,” says Nemeth.

Learn about VA programs

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