Labor Department awards grants to Southland organizations helping homeless veterans get back to work

Maurice Jackson and Jessica Bean take a Working Wardrobes workshop.
Maurice Jackson and Jessica Bean take a Working Wardrobes workshop.
Working Wardrobes

Seven organizations that serve homeless veterans in the Southland learned Tuesday that they’ll receive six-figure grants from the U.S. Labor Department. The Labor Department awarded $15 million in all this year to groups that assist homeless vets across the country.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the money aims to help vets get a roof over their heads, job training and counseling.

“We know that once our veterans have shelter, once they have their basic needs met, they’re more likely to seek treatment for medical issues, substance abuse and mental health challenges," Solis said. "And with permanent housing, they’re also more likely to secure employment.”

View US Department of Labor job training grants in a larger map

One of the winners is a group called Working Wardrobes for a New Start in Costa Mesa. Kimberlee Winkle and Jerri Rosen work with veterans there to help them get back to work.

"So what we do when we get money in of significance like this we have this little bell," said Winkle, "and we ring the bell so everyone knows that we have something delightful come through the door."

"We need a gong for this one," said Rosen. "I mean it is the best, best news that we’ve had in 22 years.”

Working Wardrobes plans to use their grant money to help 100 veterans in Los Angeles and Orange County get interview-appropriate clothing and training so they can get off the streets and into careers.

Former Navy Seal Harry Humphries is a volunteer at Working Wardrobes.

“This grant funding is going to equip them with clothing and the expertise to take the skills that they learned in the military and adapt those skills to what skills are required in the civilian workplace," Humphries said. "It’s quite a transitional phase and not many veterans can make that transition easily. I can speak from experience on that.”

He said the original concept of Working Wardrobes was to offer interview-appropriate attire to homeless vets, but they’ve expanded as a training program and a place to mentor vets before and after they have jobs.

"We are the center of gravity, if you will, of the homeless veteran problem," Humphries said. "Anything we can do to get our fellow Californians back to work is what we want to do."