The Atlanta Commission on Veterans Affairs held its first meeting this week at city hall.
The commission serves in an advisory capacity and will provide policy and legislative guidance to the Atlanta City Council regarding the many crucial issues affecting veterans such as elderly services, disabled services, homelessness, affordable housing, healthcare, job training, business development, spousal assistance and the need for a community liaison commission to advocate for the veteran community.
The commission will also review current veteran services offered at the federal, state, county, and city levels. Members will also discuss methods to better communicate those services to the veteran population and their families.
Commission Chairman Chris Balch is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp. He said the commission’s challenge will be providing information about services available to Atlanta’s veterans, especially those who are homeless.
“The challenge for veterans is getting access to information,” Balch said. “As a community we not only need to let them know what’s available to them but also provide accurate information. We also need to be proactive in providing information as opposed to being passive by letting veterans come to us.”
Commission Vice-Chair BriGette McCoy is a veteran of the U.S. Army and was homeless in Atlanta sporadically for 10 years.
“Much of the challenge for many veterans is socioeconomic,” McCoy said. “Our challenge will be reaching the people who have been overlooked in the community. We need to identify those people and empower them.”
Each year, thousands of United States Military personnel return home from active duty. Many of these individuals face challenges reintegrating into civilian life, among them physical and mental health issues, job training and placement, homelessness, and other challenges.
“Atlanta is the proud home to thousands of veterans,” said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. “We owe them every measure of respect and service that the City can provide. To that end, The Atlanta Commission on Veterans Affairs will serve in an advisory role to the City Council on how we can better meet the needs of our veterans.”
Mitchell said the first meeting of the commission included a discussion about which resources are currently available and which resources are needed to the city’s veterans.
The Commission falls under the purview of City Council’s Community Development/Human Resources Committee.
The Commission will meet at least monthly, and the next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sept. 3 in Committee Room No. 1 at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Avenue. The meetings are open to the public and public comment is welcomed.