Without a doubt, homelessness is prevalent in the San Diego area. One of the populations that is most significantly affected by homelessness is the veteran community. Kelly Luisi, the founder of the Homeless Veterans of San Diego, is working to change that.
Kelly Luisi has always been passionate about helping veterans and their families after her brother was killed serving in Iraq. Now, she leads a nonprofit out of VANC, so she can support veterans who are homeless. Through the Homeless Veterans of San Diego, she leads programs to help veterans get back on their feet, navigate the VA system, and be hired for jobs. In this conversation, she and Mike discuss how he and VANC were instrumental in helping her establish her nonprofit, what programs her organization offers, and how they help veterans thrive.
Helping Veterans Remember their Purpose, Maintain their Motivation, & Sustain their Drive
Kelly Luisi has always been a proud supporter of our military veterans. After her brother, Sgt. Kyle Colnot, was killed in Iraq in 2006, she founded her first nonprofit, Our Fallen Soldier, which helps fallen soldiers’ families.
Then, in 2017, she volunteered at the North County Veterans Stand Down. It was there that she recognized how significant the homeless crisis had become in San Diego. “I went home from that experience and realized I needed to do more,” Kelly recalls. “I decided to found the Homeless Veterans of San Diego.”
The Homeless Veterans of San Diego is based out of VANC, which has allowed Kelly to have a private place to work and engage with clients. Instead of having veterans work with just one case manager, the Homeless Veterans of San Diego offers an entire team to support every veteran struggling with homelessness. These Care Teams provide the “scaffolding” to build veterans back up and give them renewed hope.
They offer support as they help veterans navigate legal issues and receive their VA benefits. The Care Teams advocate on veterans’ behalf, so that they can get connected with programs that can help meet their needs, such as housing, medical services, and more. Most importantly, they focus on the root of the problem the veteran is facing, whether it’s an addiction, PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, or the false belief that they did not serve heroically.
“I think that some veterans who didn't serve over in Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam or Kuwait or Korea—I mean all these different areas that we've encountered—they have a shame that they carry with them that they weren't there with some of the other guys that they may have served with. So first, we try to get them to become really comfortable and prideful in what they did for our country,” Kelly explains. “Our goal at Homeless Veterans of San Diego is to really engage with our veterans, know who they are and kind of what makes them tick or what has stopped their clock and is not allowing them to move forward.”
In addition to this, they also focus on three major elements in every veteran’s life: purpose, motivation, and drive.
- Purpose: Purpose is the number one concern of the Care Teams. They figure out what is in each veteran’s core, what they aspired to be before they joined the military, and where their disengagement with the world, society, or themselves comes from.
- Motivation: Next, they determine what makes each veteran desire to move forward. Oftentimes, that motivating factor is a child, a spouse, or a parent. The Care Teams offer mentoring calls to help veterans stay motivated, as well as a quote of the week that they use to implement an action plan.
- Drive: Finally, the Care Teams provide weekly action plans for every veteran, so that they have a specific path to accomplish their goals. With these plans, they also connect them with people they can talk with to encourage them and hold them accountable.
Once they have helped veterans focus on each of these key factors, they encourage them to engage in their job placement program. Through this program, they help veterans build their resumes, boost their self-confidence, learn how to ace their interviews, and connect them with employers through job fairs and networking.
Certainly, the demand for the services that the Homeless Veterans of San Diego provides has skyrocketed, particularly due to the COVID pandemic.
“I always say homelessness doesn't have a time clock and it doesn't end at five o'clock or on the weekends,” Kelly says. This is what has led her to be personally accessible 24/7. Anyone who wants to get in touch with her or requires assistance can call her directly at (760) 214-1122.
If you or someone you know wants to get involved with helping the Homeless Veterans of San Diego, click on the link below!
Did you like what you heard? This show is produced by Imagine Podcasting dba Heard Not Seen Media, Inc. For more, visit Imagine Podcasting.