Since its inception, New Directions has been a powerful advocate for veterans and their families.
John Keaveney served 2 tours of duty in Vietnam as an Army combat infantryman and left Vietnam in 1972 with a multi-use drug problem. For the next 11 years, he alternated between homelessness and incarceration until 1983, when he was court-committed to a Veterans Administration (VA) drug rehabilitation program called New Directions. When budget cuts closed down the VA program in 1988, John Keaveney, Larry Williams, and another veteran created their own nonprofit, New Directions, Inc., in honor of the program that saved their lives.
In 1991, John met Toni Reinis, an advocate for the homeless who had founded SOVA Kosher Food Pantry and served as Southern California Director of the California Homeless and Housing Coalition. Toni and John established an immediate rapport, and they decided to work together to assist the large number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles County.
In 1992, New Directions acquired its first property, a home accommodating up to eight veterans. Clients could receive up to two years of housing, as well as clothing, substance abuse treatment, and job training.
In 1994, New Directions became the first social service agency in the country to provide temporary housing and services to homeless female veterans at Mitchell House in Mar Vista.
Invoking Title V of the McKinney Act, John and Toni petitioned the VA to lease New Directions a 60,000 sq. ft. vacant building that could be converted to a homeless facility. Finally, after years of congressional intervention, litigation and support from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), New Directions was able to sign an unprecedented 50-year lease for the building in 1995. The agency raised $5 million in capital funds from government entities, and numerous individuals, businesses and groups helped furnish and equip the 156-bed Veteran Opportunity Center (VOC).
Impressed by New Directions' success in treating hundreds of veterans recovering from drugs and alcohol, the VA asked Toni and John to create a residential treatment center for veterans suffering from both substance abuse and chronic mental illness. In 2002, Veteran Opportunity Center North began housing and treating homeless veterans with co-occurring disorders. In its first year, Veteran Opportunity Center North served more than 100 clients. In 2007, the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund (IADIF) awarded New Directions a $2.75 million grant to launch Operation Welcome Home, a program designed specifically to assist veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) as they transition back to civilian life. Chris's Place, a six-bedroom residence for recently returned OEF/OIF veterans, was opened in the spring of 2008.