“When one of the Chaplains asked a homeless vet how he could pray for him, he responded ‘you can’t pray for me, but you can pray for my outfit.’”
– Rick Norling, Executive Director and Founder of Operation HighGround
According to a 2007 report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness there were approximately 200,000 – 330,000 homeless veterans in the United States in 2006, and veterans made up about 25% of the homeless population even though only 11% of the total population was veterans. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans states that there may now be as many as 1.5 million veterans at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Many of these veterans are unable or unwilling to take advantage of the myriad of services designed to support them. Many of these veterans have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or substance dependency issues. Many have no access to mailboxes or computers that would enable them to receive information. Most of them are “forgotten.” Homelessness among our veterans is unquestionably a national concern. Despite the efforts of cities, counties, states and our federal government, we are still not able to effectively reach this displaced population.
Operation HighGround was a nonprofit organization that sought to reach out to the most unreachable veterans who may not be interested in accepting help for themselves, but who would proudly jump at an opportunity to help other veterans. Operation HighGround was unique not only in the method of involving our homeless veterans, but in the way we engaged our sponsors, provided a win-win approach for all. Along the way we sought to improve and re-purpose existing state or federal sites that may currently be under-utilized. We were prepared to use vacant land for modular housing in cases where government-owned buildings were not readily available. The veterans were taught skills by working on the reparation or building of living quarters, which was then used for medium- to longer-term transitional housing. We partnered with other established organizations to assist with the screening and treatment of issues for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder or chemical dependency issues. Our sponsors assisted in providing job opportunities for the newly trained veterans. This program also assisted with the reintegration of veterans and their families.
Operation HighGround didn’t stop there. Our Founder had an extensive background including close contacts with nationally recognized musicians who would assist in fundraising efforts such as concerts and video productions that were filmed and made available through network and video sales.