The company that hires a once-homeless Veteran; the landlord who accepts her housing voucher; the faith-based group that helps furnish his new apartment; the foundation that shores up her finances; and the civic group that pays a visit to welcome him home.
These are just a few ways that organizations provide a fresh start to Veterans who are exiting homelessness. These collaborators are essential to VA’s success in preventing and ending homelessness among Veterans.
Communities across the United States count on the support of organizations of all types—businesses, nonprofit service providers, foundations and so many others—to help Veterans who are homeless, or one tough break away from it, secure well-paying employment, affordable housing, move-in essentials and more.
Collecting home basics for Veterans exiting homelessness
We know, for instance, that when some formerly homeless Veterans move to permanent housing, they do not yet have the resources to purchase basic essential items—mattresses, sheets and pots and pans—that make their house a home.
Collaborators like Military Outreach USA work with VA and local community partners fill the gaps. With more than 250 organizations and houses of worship in its direct network, and extended reach to 25,000 organizations, this national faith-based nonprofit is making sure Veterans leaving homelessness behind can start a new life in their new home.
Through its Veterans Exiting Homelessness program, Military Outreach USA works with organizations in its network to collect and distribute move-in essentials. During a Chicago-area pilot phase of this soon-to-be-national effort, Military Outreach USA collected over 6,000 items, valued at $12,000 to $15,000, to distribute to Veterans moving into homes. Additionally, through its Beds for Vets initiative, the organization solicits donations of $150 to provide Veterans with full-size beds, box springs and frames, sheets and pillows.
VA cannot end homelessness among Veterans on our own. But when entities like Military Outreach USA join us, Veterans win.
That’s why VA is also working with these groups:
- AMVETS, which is providing Veterans with move-in essentials
- YMCA, which is connecting Veterans to VA services and benefits in the areas of employment, homelessness, healthy lifestyle programming and community reintegration
- The Elks, which committed $4 million over a four-year period to help end Veteran homelessness in Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City
- PenFed Foundation, which is helping prevent homelessness by providing emergency financial assistance for Veterans facing financial setbacks and are at risk of becoming homeless
- The Chrysler Trust, which recently provided $750,000 toward Veteran homeless expenses in Los Angeles, Detroi, and Philadelphia
Providing move-in money
Veterans also can depend on groups like Veterans Matter, which, with the help of 20-plus celebrities raising money and awareness, has helped nearly 1,000 Veterans exit homelessness—all based on founder Ken Leslie’s single conversation with a VA homeless outreach coordinator back in 2012.
“She told me about the Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program, known as HUD-VASH,” says Leslie. “My VA contact said our 35 local Veterans qualified for HUD-VASH vouchers, but many didn’t have the first month’s rent, security deposit, and other fees required by most private landlords to move in to a rental unit. That very night I created Veterans Matter, to raise the funds those Veterans needed to get housed.”
Actions like these, multiplied by willing allies across the country, are the reason that cities like Houston, New York, Philadelphia and so many others have announced that they’ve ended homelessness among Veterans. Nearly 900 city officials have in fact taken up the national “Mayors Challenge” to identify and house every Veteran who does not have a place to call home.
The insurance company, Progressive, even handed a Veteran at risk of homelessness the keys to a car, and six months of free insurance. As a result, she was able to get to work, earn her salary and stabilize her family’s housing situation.
Filling housing and employment needs
Collaborators like Progressive help VA plug service gaps that we know help end homelessness: transportation, affordable housing, employment and even legal services.
There are organizations like the Housing Partnership Network, whose members are building affordable housing for Veterans from Portland, Oregon, to Pittsburgh; and Goodwill Industries, which is offering hands-on job training to Veterans.
There are firms like Aerotek, Flagger Force Traffic Control, CORT, Progressive, Torani, MetLife, Publix, Task Management, HiEmployment, Staffmark, and many others that have met with VA’s community employment coordinators to collaborate on hiring job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness. And so has FASTPORT’s Trucking Track, which uses technology to help Veterans land the jobs that move America.
Others use their networks to help VA raise awareness about homelessness among Veterans. Real estate powerhouse Zillow recently drew attention to the need for more landlords to rent homes to Veterans who are exiting homelessness—even those with less-than-stellar credit histories. Zillow has also created the Community Pillar program to identify landlords willing to relax strict rules and house more Americans.
Author and entrepreneur Chris Gardner shared his story of being a homeless Veteran, lent many hours volunteering at a VA Stand Down, and still works in multiple ways to draw attention to this issue. He even secured a $5,000 donation from Origami Owl to pay for critical resources to help end homelessness among the growing population of female Veterans.
Finding new allies
These alliances make all the difference in keeping Veterans permanently housed and gainfully employed. But their contributions do even more: Their grass-roots perspectives give us new ideas about ways to better serve Veterans who are homeless.
We salute all our current collaborators, who have joined us to provide vital services to make sure all Veterans have access to the best care and services available. We’re always on the lookout for new allies to enlist in this cause. Please join us by learning about VA’s homeless programs and by getting involved. You can also email our VA’s homeless Veterans’ outreach team and let us know how you want to help. For partnership opportunities beyond homelessness, please feel free to contact Rashi Venkataraman at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you know a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, please refer him or her to a local VA Medical Center, where homeless coordinators are ready to help. Veterans and their families can also call 1-877-4AID-VET to be connected to VA services.
Thank you to all of our wonderful partners for the terrific job they do – day in and day out. We certainly can’t do it alone.
Originally from Michigan, Matthew S. Collier, serves as the senior advisor to the Secretary for Strategic Partnerships. Prior to joining VA, he served as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, held major elective public office, and has worked in the private sector for over 20 years. Collier holds degrees from the United States Military Academy at West Point, as well as from Harvard University. Following his graduation from West Point, and subsequent to his six years of service in the military, Collier served as the chief of staff for a U.S. Congressman, and was then elected as the youngest big city “strong” Mayor in the United States, serving as mayor of Flint, Michigan, from 1987 to 1991. Since that time, Collier has served in executive roles with a variety of high technology companies. These assignments have included over 13 years of president and CEO experience, company ownership, and executive stints in both private and public companies. Appointed by President Obama, Matt is currently serving as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Strategic Partnerships.