Veterans Matter, a Toledo, Ohio, based Veterans service organization was created in 2012 to help house 35 local homeless Veterans in the HUD-VASH program cover their deposits.
Fast forward to today. Backed by 20 celebrities including Katy Perry, Susan Sarandon, Dusty Hill, John Mellencamp, Kid Rock and others, Veterans Matter reached a milestone this Veteran’s Day, housing its 500th homeless veteran.
The program partners directly with a voucher-assisted housing program created by the VA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides homeless Veterans long term housing. Because homeless Veterans usually do not have the funds for the initial required rental deposits, Veterans Matter bridges the gap by raising money and routing it directly to a veteran’s landlord. The innovative program uses an online cloud-based system allowing them to approve the deposit in minutes and mail the check directly to the landlord the same day. This efficiency allows the program to keep costs extremely low with only 17 percent going to program costs; the rest goes directly to the deposits that help Veterans cross the threshold into their own warm homes.
I created this program to house 35 local Veterans. Once Dusty Hill of ZZ Top heard about it he and his wife started a Houston group with several compassionate business leaders and they have already housed 258 Texas Veterans. It started scaling from there. I figured if we keep it fast, efficient, and focused, most of the money could actually help Veterans and their families replace the concrete currently under their heads with pillows.
The program has housed Veterans in Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Washington, with a new Mid-Atlantic chapter starting to raise the funds to house homeless Veterans in DC, Maryland and Virginia. In addition to serving 500 Veterans, the program has provided housing for their families, including 200 children.
The VASH social workers love using Veterans Matter because it frees up valuable SSVF funds for homeless prevention and helps push us closer to the administration’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
The program’s success was highlighted this past summer with an invitation from First Lady Michelle Obama to participate in this summer’s White House Summit to End Veteran Homelessness.
Our growth is due in part to the celebrity supporters who are lending their voice or raising funds and a generous biannual radio campaign donated by Cumulus Media and other radio properties spanning 50 states. In the PSA’s, the celebrities call on American citizens to donate to the cause by texting ‘VETS’ to 41444 and donate any amount on their credit or debit card. Funds immediately and directly go to provide a veteran with a rental deposit, putting them in their own home quickly and safely. To see the list of celebrities as well as their videos visit veteransmatter.org/broadcast.
Veterans Matter raises only enough money to account for the number of housing vouchers available in a given area of operation and then moves onto the next region of need. For more information, visit VeteransMatter.org or Facebook.com/VeteransMatter.
Ken Leslie is the founder of Veterans Matter.