Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and City Council Chairman Chip Henderson came to campus to meet with members of the UTC Student Veterans Organization and UTC faculty members who served in the military to discuss the issues veterans face during service and upon their return home.
Following their exchange, Berke signed an executive order establishing a community coalition to eradicate chronic veterans’ homelessness by December 2016. This task force will pull together a group of veterans, community leaders, and service providers to develop an action plan over the next year and monitor progress toward this ambitious goal.
Berke indicated he would name task force members during the next few weeks. An initial meeting will be held in early June.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, at any given time in Chattanooga there are about 150 veterans who are homeless and 20% who are chronically homeless. Due to the transient nature of this problem, it is likely that many more go uncounted.
“These men and women have served our country valiantly and it’s time we take care of the people who have fought so courageously for our freedom” said Berke.
Daniel Wagner, President of the UTC Student Veterans Organization, spent five years in the Navy. Both of his parents are retired military. Wagner explained that he is a resident assistant in UTC Housing and has an opportunity to be a positive influence with students who are veterans.
“When a student who has served in the military lives in housing, I can help by explaining services that are available,” said Wagner.
Henderson acknowledged that he hears from veterans who feel they are not part of all they can be in the community during the transition from military to civilian life.
Dr. Manuel Santiago, UC Foundation Professor of Chemistry, has served in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserves.
“The military provides a different structure than civilian life,” said Santiago.
Navigating the requirements of higher education can be difficult for veterans coming from a structured atmosphere, Santiago said. Veterans need assistance before they become so frustrated they don’t finish their education and take advantage of all the services available to them.
One way UTC has reached out to veterans is with the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, housed in the College of Business. Veterans attend a boot camp to help them get the training they need to develop a business plan and grow their own business.
UTC was named among the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News and World Report. The institution was selected based upon participation in federal initiatives designed to help veterans and active service members apply, fund, and complete their degrees. UTC offers veterans a streamlined process for admission and the support of the Student Veterans Organization, just a few examples of the University’s commitment to those who serve.