In the summer of 2012 a group of Richmond area veterans were part of an employment support group sponsored by River City Comprehensive Counseling Services. All were facing numerous difficulties, having trouble finding gainful employment as well as proper housing. Some of them had been working for local temp and staffing agencies for minimum wages, while others were living in shelters for the homeless.
During the course of these group discussions, they collectively noticed another piece of common ground which they all shared – a frustration over the lack of control and power they had over each of their situations. Drawing together to develop a solution that would insure answers to the problems they faced in the fall of 2012, a temp agency in downtown Richmond was recruiting workers to do political canvassing for candidates running for office. One of the support group members was already working directly with a campaign committee, the head of that which made the proposition to him that if the group of veterans organized as a canvassing service, the committee would contract with them for the canvassing. The offer was made to the support group participants and the agreed to establish the non-profit Veterans Initiative Association and form a company that would hire veterans to work for those who would contract with them for any and all kinds of services that they could provide. Thus the Bonded Reliable Services Group was founded and began contracting for neighborhood and door-to-door canvassing and surveying.
After the election for which the group was canvassing, they were then contracted by Pritchard Industries to do the clean-up after the presidential inauguration at US Capital and Mall. In 2013 the group opened and began operating the Veterans House of Richmond, an 8-bed facility for veterans who are re-entering society. This year, the group has been awarded the contract to provide janitorial services for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy in Richmond. Now the VIA will be moving state-wide with operations in Hampton Roads, Northern and Southern Virginia.
The Census Bureau estimates that there are some 12,000 Virginians who are veterans living in various degrees of homelessness. 25,000 Virginia veterans and their families who are without healthcare, and over 6,000 in need of mental health services. The VIA’s mission is to service all those veterans.