For Veterans exiting homelessness, moving can be costly, stressful, and time-consuming. That’s where UNITS Moving and Portable Storage of Northwest Chicago comes in. The newest of 29 UNITS franchises across the country, UNITS of Northwest Chicago held its grand opening in October. Owner Tom Koenig has made it the mission of the new franchise to help Chicago-area homeless Veterans move into new homes.
“Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, and the rest of my family are first responders,” Koenig said. “There are folks who run from danger and those who run to it… I have such a respect for those who serve that I want to use UNITS of Northwest Chicago to help in any way.”
Koenig’s franchise has partnered with Military Outreach USA, a Veterans service organization in Northbrook, Illinois, to hold collection drives for essential move-in items, winter clothing, and household goods for Veterans exiting homelessness. With the help of volunteers, Military Outreach USA has solicited donations from schools, churches, and other Veterans’ organizations.
In the past, Military Outreach USA had to rent a cargo van or load up volunteers’ SUVs with donated items from collection drives to deliver them to VA facilities. Now the organization relies on UNITS of Northwest Chicago to drop off storage units at collection drive sites and pick them up once the drive ends.
The 100th anniversary of the end of World War I seemed to be the ideal time to start the effort, according to Joseph Palmer, president of Military Outreach USA.
“We thought the best way to launch this effort for the strongest impact was scheduling the collection drives around Veterans Day,” Palmer said. “As a result, Tom [Koenig] was pleasantly surprised by how many people wanted storage units dropped off — and by the number of responses to the collection drives.”
Over Veterans Day weekend, seven 1,000-cubic-foot UNITS containers were filled with donations. Palmer considered it the most successful collection drive to date.
Military Outreach USA organizes several collection drives each year. But donating isn’t limited to collection drives; UNITS of Northwest Chicago has a storage unit at its facility that accepts donations throughout the year.
Donations of household goods for Veterans exiting homelessness are always welcome. If you are unable to donate, there are other ways you can help end Veteran homelessness. To get involved, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
Holly Hirsel, a social worker, employed with VA’s national Homeless Program Office where she works with the community engagement team to develop and maintain partnerships with public and private entities to advance the availability of resources to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Case Western Reserve Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and an undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University majoring in both psychology and social work.