VA Maryland Health Care System
New Community Resource and Referral Center
| The CRRC includes a complete kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, a food pantry, a clothing closet, and a play area for children, as well as a host of other community services and collaborations with other federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
"They followed me around,” said Michael, a 54-year-old formerly homeless Army Veteran who has long struggled with mental health issues. “Mostly, I’m here because they followed me everywhere, and they helped me,” he said, smiling, referring to the VA Maryland Health Care System’s homeless outreach team. Today, Michael is in his own space and happy to be on a healthier footing. When he was homeless, outreach social worker Brandan Pippens visited him every day at his spot at Hopkins Plaza, bringing him lunch, spending time with him, building trust, convincing him to come into the VA and check out the available services. Michael’s new digs sit a stone’s throw from VA’s newly opened Community Resource & Referral Center (CRRC) at the Baltimore VA Annex where homeless Veterans can escape from the desolation of the streets and seek assistance from an array of services designed to help them leave homelessness behind them.
The CRRC, a collaborative, multiagency, multidisciplinary program, provides Veterans with a veritable one-stop shop. Aside from addressing basic needs such as showering, eating and doing laundry, Veterans can access medical and mental health care treatment for a variety of issues. The center’s walk-in clinic opens at 9 a.m. and thus, it isn’t unusual to see Veterans with luggage and multiple bags checking into the clinic.
“The CRRC will strengthen and build on existing VA partnerships and develop new ones with community allies such as Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF), drop-in centers and community programs across the city, among others,” said Christopher Buser, chief of Social Work Service.
Baltimore’s CRRC is one of 29 Centers that the Department of Veterans Affairs is strategically locating across the nation, and, as with the others, is focused on providing all the necessary services to help Veterans leave the streets behind for good. The center’s goal and mission includes providing rapid, comprehensive housing services focused on the chronically homeless and for Veterans struggling to maintain their current housing.
The CRRC includes a complete kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, a food pantry, a clothing closet, and a play area for children, as well as a host of other community services and collaborations with other federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Staffed by an array of VA social workers, case managers, nurse practitioners, and mental health providers, the CRRC specializes in providing homeless Veterans with financial planning and assistance, vocational training, employment services, primary and mental health care, treatment for substance abuse disorders, and placement in safe and stable housing.
“The launch of the CRRC is a tangible and concrete demonstration of our commitment to serving Veterans. We’re committed to increasing access to services for homeless Veterans in a welcoming environment” says Anthony B. Gibson, the Center’s program coordinator. “This initiative offers Veterans a one-stop-shop to combat homelessness and a strong hand up to get them on a healthier track.”
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