The more than 97,000 veterans in Allegheny County now have a new tool to help them find necessary resources once they return home.
Checkpoint, a new organization created by Pittsburgher and Iraq War veteran Jared Souder, is a web platform that provides a database of veteran-friendly resources, as well as reviews and feedback by fellow veterans to help future veterans make informed decisions about the outlets they seek for services.
“The idea for Checkpoint really came out of my own frustration with the fragmentation of resources in the Veterans’ space and the incredible effort required of veterans or military family members who were trying to find the right things,” says Souder. “I spent four years working with homeless veterans as the head of a local agency and even as someone who worked in this field full-time and knew a lot about what was going in, I would still run into roadblocks and come up with a lot of unanswerable questions. I kept saying to myself that there’s got to be a more effective way.”
Checkpoint helps alleviate some of this frustration by bringing together the vast world of veteran services into one, easy to access platform that empowers veterans to have a voice in their own community. Checkpoint users can identify specific providers serving specific needs like career advancement, medical care, and more.
Although there are national databases that provide similar information, Souder says they lack a local presence and ultimately have little local visibility and support. Local agencies also compile their own lists of contacts, but these lists are only affective if the veteran is already connected with the agency. According to Souder, Checkpoint will help bridge the gap.
“We’ve got the touch and presence of a local agency because we’re part of the local community, but we’re using a lot of the same sorts of technology that you’ll see with commercial information aggregators like Yelp! And Angie’s List,” says Souder.
So far, the response from the veterans’ community has been appreciative.
“I think within the veteran community, there’s been a recognition for a long time that this ahs been a problem, but nothing has really been able to fill the void effectively,” says Souder. “When I go out and talk about what we’re doing, I constantly have people coming up to me and telling me how they needed this and how excited they are to see it develop.”
Although Souder is the founder of Checkpoint, he says the organization wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The Heinz Endowments who provided him with the financial resources he needed to get Checkpoint moving, as well as connections and expertise.
“I can safely say that without them this would still be just an idea in my head,” he says.
Souder says he’s also received significant support from organizations like Steel City Vets, Team Red, White & Blue, and The Mission Continues.
While Checkpoint will start out as a very local resource, Souder has big plans for the organization.
“I absolutely think what we’re doing has the potential to impact communities all over the United States, so in my heart I believe that we’ll expand, but right now we’re really just trying to fine tune our model and processes here in Pittsburgh so we can make sure we have the best, most positive impact in southwest Pennsylvania.“
In these infant stages of the organization, financial support and awareness are vital to Checkpoint’s success. To help on both of these fronts, the organization is hosting an event Oct. 3-5 called The Crucible. This event will be a three-day, 70-mile extreme hike through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands Trail.
“The event is designed to bring together a group of veterans and civilians and simulate perspectives, support and mirror some of the challenges and conditions veterans face on a daily basis,” says Souder.
to learn more about what Checkpoint is doing for the Veterans of southwest Pennsylvania.