Steve Peck: Always Looking Forward

Kelly (right), with her U.S.VETS case manager Tim, shows off her Associate of Arts degree.

When Kelly first came to U.S.VETS a little over a year ago, she was trapped in a cycle of homelessness and addiction – a cycle that is all too familiar to many of the veterans we serve. Fortunately Kelly, who served in the U.S. Air Force, was determined to make a change, and brave enough to reach out for the help she needed.

Why do so many veterans like Kelly get trapped in this cycle? Why is it so difficult to break free, and how do those that succeed beat the odds? The answer is wraparound support services.

Taking homeless veterans off the sidewalks and putting them into housing is only part of the solution. Far too many end up back on the streets, or bouncing from shelter to shelter. In order to regain control of their lives, these veterans need a foundation, as well as a roof. Support services are that foundation, a crucial component of a long-term solution to the stubborn problem of homelessness.

For Kelly, U.S.VETS helped her start learning life skills, which were the first step toward stability. Once she felt grounded, she was able to work on her addiction issues and start setting goals. With her case manager, Kelly came up with a plan and started checking those goals off, one by one.

With renewed focus and determination, Kelly started working closely with our Workforce program. Within a year of coming to U.S.VETS, Kelly went from being homeless to earning her Associate of Arts degree and working full-time.

“There were a lot of barriers that could have derailed me,” she says, “but I’m grateful for the support from the U.S.VETS Workforce team along the way.”

Kelly is just one of the thousands of veterans we serve, and stories like hers are the reason we keep going year after year. Through our comprehensive support services, we are giving veterans the foundation they need to get their lives back on track.

Last year:

  • We placed over 1,100 veterans into jobs through our workforce programs.
  • More than 4,800 low-income veteran families received supportive services.
  • 287,000 mental health assessments and counseling sessions were provided to veterans and their family members.

But we’re not done yet. Just like Kelly, we are always setting new goals. Moving forward, U.S.VETS is developing new programs and finding new ways we can help even more veterans find stability and achieve independence. We’re looking forward to expanding our services in the year to come, as we continue to strive to serve every veteran we can.

Even starting from rock bottom, with enough determination and strong support veterans like Kelly can rise above their challenges. When she thinks about what lies ahead, Kelly fondly recalls another achievement during her time at U.S.VETS – climbing to the top of Thumb Butte with a group of fellow veterans. “Where will I be in the future?” she asks with a smile. “On top of a mountain.”

Steve Peck, MSW
President & CEO
USMC 1968-71

Stephen J. Peck served as a lieutenant in the 1st Marine Division in the Vietnam War, near Da Nang, from 1969 to 1970. As a documentary filmmaker 20 years after the war, he met a paraplegic Vietnam veteran with PTSD who was living in a car – with his Silver Star in the glove compartment. Struck by the experience, Mr. Peck chose to dedicate his life to serving veterans.

Mr. Peck earned his Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC.  He joined U.S.VETS as Director of Community Development in 1996, and was named president and CEO in 2010. He is also the President of the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies (CAVSA) a consortium of six nonprofit veteran service providers working in partnership to address the needs of California’s veterans.

A national leader in the fight against veteran homelessness, he has been honored by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the USC School of Social Work, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the City of Long Beach. He was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2012.