HillVets Moves into Capitol Hill House

Organization Empowers Veterans to Add Voices to Policy

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HillVets founder Justin Brown poses with a flag in the HillVets Capitol Hill House. Photo: Sarah Cymrot

HillVets recently moved into the Capitol Hill neighborhood to offer veterans and service members temporary housing and support to enable them to begin a career in policy.  Fewer than 2 percent of Capitol Hill staffers have military experience, a statistic that HillVets is fighting to change.

The Capitol Hill house is a home to a rotating group of HillVets fellows that spend up to eight months living together as they search for a permanent job in government.  Through their support system, HillVets empowers participants to continue to serve the government after their military service.

HillVets is a non-partisan, non-issue oriented organization that strives to guide veterans and service members in finding jobs that match their values. It was founded six years ago by Navy veteran Justin Brown to increase representation of veterans on the Hill. Four years ago, HillVets became a nonprofit that depends on both individual and business donations. Previously located in Crystal City and Alexandria, HillVets moved to 127 12th St. SE this summer to give their fellows greater proximity to congressional offices.

At any one time, there are up to eight fellows living in the house and an additional small number that participate in the program and live elsewhere. In addition to housing, the fellowship program provides training, mentorship and peer support.

There are three steps to the fellowship program.  First, fellows find a temporary volunteer position with one of the organization’s twenty congressional office “ambassadors” who have agreed to work with HillVets fellows.  A stipend from HillVets enables fellows to pay for basic needs while they are getting their foot in the door. Secondly, HillVets works with fellows to find a permanent job in policy, hopefully within four months. While their first temporary job is in a congressional office, fellows can choose to branch out to other types of policy organizations. Finally, fellows are offered continued training to enable them to become leaders in their field.

HillVets also offers a program called HillVets LEAD, a three hour per week, twelve-week program that trains veterans and service members in veteran policy, defense or communications/media.  Participants are put in cohorts of six that can continue to motivate and inspire each other in their careers.  Thirty-six individuals participate in the HillVets LEAD program each year.

HillVets believes in the notion of “pay it forward”. They say do not expect anything in return from their fellows other than to give back to the HillVets community by training the next generation of fellows. HillVets also says they are committed to giving back to the Capitol Hill community. To start, they immediately ‘adopted’ their block both south and north of Lincoln Park, and are helping with ongoing cleanup efforts.

Visit www.hillvets.org to learn more about HillVets.