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Rail Runner Partners with Local Veterans Centers

vic 1 smAs the New Mexico Rail Runner Express approaches its 10 year anniversary this July, we are looking back at the many programs and partnerships that have developed over the years. One program that stands out is the Veterans Pass, which gives veterans with a VHIC (VA card) an annual pass to ride the train. Through this program, we have developed an extensive list of community partners. One of those partners, the New Mexico Veterans Integration Centers (VIC), also happens to be celebrating a 10 year anniversary.

The VIC provides a wide variety of supportive services for veterans, focusing on those who are homeless or are experiencing a housing crisis. As part of the VIC’s ongoing community outreach on the second Friday of each month, Rail Runner staff was on hand at their central office in Albuquerque to issue our Veterans Passes this past April. This is one of three events that we have partnered with the VIC on in the past.

“Veterans in the community have been really receptive to the Rail Runner,” said Wendy Webber, Outreach Coordinator for the VIC. “I have talked to residents who have used the train. They enjoy the ride, especially the peace and quiet. It was so easy for them to use, and they were able to experience something new.”

About the Rail Runner Veterans Pass

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express Veterans Pass began as a pilot program on Veterans Day 2014, and has been extended through December 31, 2016. The pass is available to veterans with a VHIC (VA card). Pass holders can ride all Rail Runner trains at no cost. Later this year a decision will be made regarding extension of the program beyond 2016.

Michael Jiron, the Veterans Transportation Initiative Project Manager, said that the pass was developed, in part, as a thank you to veterans. “You can say something or you can do something,” said Jiron. “This is a physical item that we can give veterans to thank them for their service.”

Increasing Access By Reducing Barriers

Having the pass helps veterans move out of isolation by taking away barriers to transportation. In addition to being accepted on the train, pass holders can connect to many local transit systems at no cost, including Rio Metro, ABQ RIDE and Santa Fe Trails buses. This gives them the opportunity to travel to many destinations throughout central and northern New Mexico, including the VA Hospital, school, work, medical appointments and more.

It also helps increase the quality of life for many individuals. “Now people can get to work, get to school,” said Jiron. “It is changing their lives.”

Learn How to Get a Veterans Pass >>

About the VIC

The New Mexico Veterans Integration Centers (VIC) are located in Albuquerque, but serve veterans all across New Mexico. The organization’s focus is integrating veterans into the community and preventing homelessness for veterans, with a goal of stable income and stable housing. They operate a transitional housing facility that currently houses up to 50 residents. Those residents receive assistance with clothing, food, transportation, and daily living skills such as budgeting and job searches, among other things. In addition to their residents, they also assist non-resident veterans with a variety of services.

vic 2 sm“We have an A to Z approach,” said Webber about the services they provide. “We want to start by helping people get medically stable. Then we work with them to get stable housing. After they have stable housing we work on their income.”

Housing & Supportive Services

According to Webber, they have a 70% success rate for their clients in the transitional housing program. This means they have successfully achieved stable income and housing. While they have a high success rate with this program, participants are always welcome to come back to the VIC and continue to use their other programs like the food pantry. Their Supportive Services for Veteran Families program focuses on rapid re-housing for homeless veterans and preventative for veterans who are housed and at risk of losing housing. This program provides financial support for items such as rents, utilities and deposits. Both programs utilize case management to help veterans identify their goals and navigate barriers.

10 Year Anniversary

This April, the VIC celebrated their 10 year anniversary with an open house style event at the NM Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque. The event was a way to say thank you to all of their community partners and volunteers, and also to highlight the success of their Deployment fundraiser. During the fundraiser, community members were ‘deployed’ to harsh areas like Mars and Mt. Everest. They could accept monetary donations so they could be “awarded” small luxuries, such as gravity boots on the moon or wine to go with their meals. The fundraiser was both creative and successful, raising more than $20,000.

Looking into the future, the VIC would like to consolidate their operation by building a campus that will house all of their resources. If they are able to get the lot they have their eyes on, they hope to break ground on the facility as early as next year.

For more information about the services provided by the Veterans Integration Centers call (505) 296-0800.

Learn More about the VIC >>

Continued Partnership

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is proud to support veterans through our Annual Pass program, and we look forward to our continued partnership with organizations like the Veterans Integration Centers.

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