Monterey Park, CA – On September 22nd, 2017, the CAUSE Veterans Initiative had its second civic leadership session at the SoCalGas Learning Center.
The workshop opened with a discussion on policies surrounding the topics of mental health and homelessness among veterans. Michael Nailat, Program Officer of the Home for Good program at United Way Greater Los Angeles, conveyed the difficulties associated with addressing homelessness for veterans due to their unique experiences and situations. He explained how current approaches proved to be ineffective in getting veterans off the streets, and that it was necessary to provide not only housing, but also an understanding community.
Cliff Ishigaki of Wellness Works, a US Marine Corps veteran, discussed the nuanced ways of addressing veterans’ mental health issues, especially for those who have returned from deployment. After sharing an account of his experiences during the Vietnam war, he told the fellows, “Recovery can only occur after stabilization, and that stabilization must be repeated over time.”
Afterwards, the Veterans Initiative fellows heard from Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and former Lieutenant of the US Navy reserve. When the fellows asked Hicks how he reconciles different opinions among veterans and other communities, he stated, “You’ve got to accept where they’re at.” When trying to convince someone to open themselves to different perspectives, it’s important to “know where you want them to go, but know where they are starting.”
Over dinner, The Honorable Jay Chen of the Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees and Lieutenant of the US Naval Reserve and The Honorable Tim Goodrich, US Air Force Veteran, share how their experiences in service have shaped them to become effective community leaders. Chen talked about how a big part of his motivation in getting politically involved was so that young, aspiring Asian Americans in his community can have a role model to look up to. Goodrich continued by highlighting how his experience in the US Air Force taught him the necessary resilience for running for office; he encouraged each fellow to get involved as community leaders, saying to them “You’re already a leader.”