Blog Archives

 
 

For our site visitors who aren’t as social as we are – at least, not following us on Twitter or Facebook – here are some highlights from the past week on social media from Veterans Matter.

We…

…shared our monthly e-newsletter with those who don’t already subscribe. It’s another great way to stay up to date with what’s going on with Veterans Matter – and it’s conveniently delivered straight to your email inbox!

…celebrated housing 972 now 981 veterans housed! See the latest numbers on our Veterans Housed To Date page.

972

…retweeted teachers sharing what their students are doing for veterans this Valentine’s Day

…shared this story about a homeless veteran in Arizona being told he must choose between finding a home and keeping his dogs…and this one about a homeless dog who is now training to become a service animal for veterans!

And we thanked patriotic rock band Madison Rising for supporting our cause to get veterans housed and shared this video:

 

 
 

If you’re in the northern half of the country, you may have enjoyed a milder start to winter this year compared to the last two years (who else got sick of hearing about the polar vortex?). But now it’s January and Mother Nature has decided to remind us what that means.

As I write this, it is 35 degrees in Atlanta, 27 in Washington, DC, and just 12 in Chicago. A major winter storm is expected this weekend for the Northeast. When we leave work or school tonight, we will bundle up and rush to our cars, then into our homes, to minimize the time we have to be out in the bitter cold.

We’ll spend the evening cooking dinner and watching Netflix – we’re lucky.

For the 47,725 homeless veterans and their families, the evening will go much differently: If they can’t find shelter, they’ll spend their night just trying to stay warm.winter in America morguefile

There are programs across the country geared specifically toward helping homeless veterans. Some collect supplies to help veterans survive the winter, and most put them in touch with the VA to make sure they’re getting housed, receiving care and other benefits.

But we have to do our part, too. The VA works with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the HUD-VASH program to find permanent housing for veterans and their families. Each year, vouchers are designated for veteran use to get them into secure housing – but the vouchers don’t cover deposits.

Through traditional means, it can take weeks or even months for a veteran to get help with that deposit. With temperatures below freezing, there just isn’t time for that.

That’s why we’re here. We don’t want to see any veteran – their spouse, their children – out in the cold tonight. Our mission is to help as many unhoused veterans as we can, as fast as we can.

This month alone we have housed 27 veterans who WERE on the streets, sleeping in their cars, or in the shelters. They are warm tonight because of you!

How can you help?

The biggest dilemma our veterans face tonight should be what to watch on TV, not where to find the warmest, driest place to sleep.

 
 

900thVetHousedOn 12/31 we had the best New Year’s Eve EVER! Our team helped the last of the 75 local homeless veterans over the threshold into permanent housing at Commons at Garden Lake, a brand new veterans-only apartment complex made just for them. We got to see that moment when, for the first time in a long time, they realize they have a place to go tonight, their home, their own place – some for the first time in a very long time. There were tears, ours and theirs.

To date, we have housed nearly 1,000 veterans and veteran families (940 to be exact) in 11 states.

But we couldn’t do it without the compassion and support of so many regular Americans who work as CEOs, waitresses, farmers, sales people, students, bus boys, and even actors and musicians. They, too, are just regular Americans whose names we happen to know.

So far 20+ notably-named regular Americans have joined our national movement of compassion. Artists such as award-winning country singer Darius Rucker who, like you and I, is committed to ending veteran homelessness.

Yes, they help us raise money and awareness when they do our PSAs and post on their social media, but here is what is so cool about their involvement:

When Veterans Matter receives a request from a HUD-VASH social worker to get an unhoused veteran into a place of their own, it means that veteran is ready to sign a lease – but they need a deposit. That’s where we come in.

The VA staff requests the referral on our cloud-based system and all conforming referrals (98.65%) are approved immediately with the landlord getting a confirmation email literally within minutes.

Thanks to the support of Darius and others in the music industry backing our cause, many landlords accept our email notice of approval to act as the actual deposit – “Because I just love Darius,” they might say – and they let the veteran or veteran family move in immediately.sleep tonight

And we are not just talking about numbers here. People’s lives are being changed – even saved. Larry Squires, a HUD-VASH social worker, sent us this heartwarming reminder of that:

“I was with a veteran who had been homeless for three years. We signed his lease with the landlord and he asked me to drop him off at the library where he checks his email. About 10 minutes after dropping him off, he called me in tears and said, ‘You know, as I was walking into the library, I realized I have my own apartment and a key in my pocket. I know where I will sleep tonight.  It seems like the stress of years of homelessness has been lifted off my shoulders. Thank you for helping me.’

“Well Ken, that sentiment goes to the good people at Veterans Matters as well.

“Later he gave me a decoration to hang in my office. It has a house shape with a heart on it and says, ‘HOME is a starting place for LOVE and DREAMS.’ I’m sort of glad I am the only person in the office right now so others don’t see the tears rolling down my face while I write this.

“The other thing about housing homeless veterans is that so many of them tell me that it takes a long time for them to believe that they are housed. Like a homeless PTSD.”

When we think of all the stories out there still waiting to be told – from their homes – it drives us.

We hope to hear HUNDREDS more this year as we continue to take care of our own. And thanks to those like Mr. Rucker, we will.

Veterans Matter, we must take care of our own.

 

 

Best New Year’s Eve – EVER!

Moments ago some of the 1Matters team helped last of the 75 veterans move into Commons at Garden Lake.

We got to see that moment when, for the first time in a long time, they realize they have a place to go tonight, their home, their own place – some for the first time in a very long time. There were tears, at least mine.

Left to Right: Michael Preston, National Church Residences, Shawn Dowling, VA Homeless Program, Ken Leslie, Founder of Veterans Matter, and 1Matters team members Norma Leslie, Mike Clark, Shawn Clark, and Leryc Barber.

Left to Right: Michael Preston, National Church Residences, Shawn Dowling, VA Homeless Program, Ken Leslie, Founder, Veterans Matter, and 1Matters team members Norma Leslie, Mike Clark, Shawn Clark, and Leryc Barber.


There are so many to thank for Commons at Garden Lake, but two who were there since the beginning, two who’s dogged determination culminated today in 75 of our veterans who were on the streets and in the shelters, are now housed. The two are pictured above. To Shawn Dowling with the VA and Michael Preston with National Church Residences, on behalf of the 75 men and women who wore the uniform who are now housed in the building that surrounds you, we all say thank you! Thank you very much. Thanking you for making this…..

Best New Year’s Eve – Ever.

Thank you all!

ken

 

Via this Christmas Eve post on the Huffington Post, Founder Ken Leslie thanks all of those who are part of housing our nation’s heroes, especially those who are at curb level with us.

This Christmas we set aside all political rancor to celebrate what happens when we really do come together. God Bless us, everyone.- ken

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And asleep in his car
Were the vet’s wife and sweet children
As he touches his scar.

 

 

850VetsHoused_WEBThe week of Veterans Day, Veterans Matter housed its 850th veteran. Including spouses and children, we’ve now housed 1,321 people, 25 percent of whom are children!

With donations still coming in from the 80+ 11/11@7 Exchange Club rallies held across the nation on Veterans Day and from the generosity of our Giving Tuesday donors, we’ll soon be housing many more. We are so proud and thankful to celebrate each milestone, but of course there is still much work to be done.

However, we couldn’t do what we do without the compassion and tireless leg work of VA case managers across the country. HUD-VASH social workers do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to locating homeless veterans and following up with them after they are housed.

Veterans Matter has a 100 percent success rate in housing homeless veterans into a HUD-VASH long-term supportive housing program, which has a 91 percent success rate in keeping them housed.

Every formerly unhoused veteran has a story. Here are just three.

Mickiela’s story

What’s it REALLY like to lose everything and live on the streets?: Hear George’s and Ann’s stories

Powerful stuff.

By the time Veterans Matter receives a request from a HUD-VASH social worker, he or she has already screened the veteran for legitimate homelessness, confirmed his or her military service, determined his or her capability to be housed in the sustained HUD-VASH housing, found a home and negotiated a contract with the landlord. The veteran is now ready, willing, and able to sign the lease if they have the deposit.

That’s where we come in. The moment a veteran is ready to sign the lease, the HUD-VASH social worker can log into our cloud-based referral system from any device anywhere and complete our simple referral form requesting the deposit and veteran’s share of the first month’s rent. Usually within minutes we can approve the request and immediately email the social worker and landlord the notice of approval and our commitment to send the check the same day.

Because we are backed by John Mellencamp, Dusty Hill, ZZ Top, Katy Perry, Kix Brooks and others in the music industry, the landlords often allow our email notification to act as the deposit and allow the veteran into their new home immediately.

Our only interest and only priority is helping get veterans off the streets TODAY. We must take care of our own.

To learn more about the VA’s vital role in preventing and ending veteran homelessness, please click on the following links:

FOR VETERANS: If you’re a veteran in need of housing, contact your local VA office at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838) or visit va.gov/homeless.

FOR LANDLORDS: A VETERAN HOUSING TOOLKIT

FOR EMPLOYERS: A VETERAN EMPLOYMENT TOOLKIT

FOR LAWYERS

FOR FIRST RESPONDERS

FOR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

FOR SOCIAL WORKERS

FOR ORGANIZATIONS

Find many more resources and fact sheets here.

Thank you, HUD-VASH social workers, for helping us #GetVetsHoused!

 

GivingTuesday5_FB-Cover-2015_WEB

 

First there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.

Today is Giving Tuesday.

#GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. Here in Northwest Ohio, we’re participating in #GivingTuesdayNWO. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

After all the great deals and holiday savings, today is a chance to pause, reflect and support the local nonprofit(s) of your choice.

Participating local charities, including 1Matters.org and Veterans Matter, have the chance to receive matching funds up to $1,000 from the Toledo Community Foundation for all donations made TODAY. Donations must be made (not just pledged, but made) on Dec. 1 for the gift to count.

Veterans Matter has housed nearly 850 veterans and veteran families in 11 states (25 percent of which are children) since 2012. Including spouses and children, we’ve housed more than 1,300 people! None of this would be possible without the support of thousands of everyday Americans who have donated to help house our nation’s heroes, living on the streets of the very country they served.

All donations received today will help us house veterans and veteran families waiting right now.

As sickening as it is, it’s easy for us to envision a homeless veteran sleeping in his car this winter, shivering, literally trying to shake off the cold. But that cold cannot be shaken off because it has burrowed into the very marrow of his bones.

What’s not as easy to imagine is his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter in the back seat, both snuggled against their mother, a mother desperately trying to use her body heat to warm her shivering children, who are also trying to shake off that same cold. But they cannot because that bone chilling cold has now burrowed deeply into their little bones.

Take that in. Please.

Now imagine that same father and mother going into their children’s warm rooms at night, tucking them in, even telling them a bedtime story before turning off the lights, leaving on a nightlight to comfort the children as they sink into their own pillows, in their own home.

Now imagine that you had the “Power of 1” to help that veteran family have that home. Because YOU do. You have the Power of 1 to save and change lives. We all do. But do we choose to use it for good? This is what defines our humanity.

We must take care of our own.

Veterans Matter is a program of 1Matters.org, a Toledo-based nonprofit sparked and supported by singer John Mellencamp, with a mission to leverage community compassion and deliver it to those on the streets and in the shelters, with the goal of helping people return to domestic autonomy. 1Matters.org’s annual Tent City draws more than 1,000 guests and volunteers over the three-day weekend, where people can gain access to food, clothing, medical services, social services, haircuts and friendship.

Donations to either 1Matters.org or Veterans Matter count toward our goal of $1,000 in donations on #GivingTuesdayNWO. Donations specified to 1Matters will stay with 1Matters, and donations specified to Veterans Matters will stay with Veterans Matter.

Any matching funds we receive from #GivingTuesdayNWO (up to $1,000) will be used to help area residents obtain critical documents (birth certificates and IDs). The need is huge. Without them, people cannot get a job, services, even food or shelter. Last year, we were quite limited in capacity. This year, we provided $2,500 for critical documents at Tent City, yet still had to turn people away.

Please consider making a donation to Veterans Matter today. This is a unique opportunity to help us double $1,000 of our donations.

Click here to donate!

-Ken Leslie
Founder
Veterans Matter

PS We’d love to hear from you! Take an #UNSelfie (download and print the template here) or tag us in a post about why you decided to donate on #GivingTuesdayNWO

GivingTuesdayNWOLogo

 

Brothers and Sisters of National Exchange Club,

As sickening as it is, it’s easy for us to envision a homeless veteran sleeping in his car this winter, shivering, literally trying to shake off the cold. But that cold cannot be shaken off because it has burrowed into the very marrow of his bones.

What’s not as easy to imagine is his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter in the back seat, both snuggled against their mother, a mother desperately trying to use her body heat to warm her shivering children, who are also trying to shake off that same cold. But they cannot because that bone chilling cold has now burrowed deeply into their little bones.

Take that in. Please.

Now imagine that same father and mother going into their children’s warm rooms at night, tucking them in, even telling them a bedtime story before turning off the lights, leaving on a nightlight to comfort the children as they sink into their own pillows, in their own home.

Now imagine that you had the “Power of 1” to help that veteran family have that home. Because YOU do. You have the Power of 1 to save and change lives. We all do. But do we choose to use it for good? This is what defines our humanity.

Just more than 100 days ago, at Exchange’s National Convention in Columbus, OH, I talked about that incredible Power of 1 to give. And that YOU are the most powerful leader you know.

The Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs joined to host a USO-style dance, silent auction and chili cookoff in Toledo on 11/11@7.

Toledo, OH: The Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs joined to host a USO-style dance, silent auction and chili cookoff in Toledo on 11/11@7.

I told each Exchangite in the room that his or her Power of 1 is intertwined with each other to create the “Power of 1 Club,” which intertwined creates the “Power of 1 Community,” which intertwined creates the National Exchange Club, which is indivisibly intertwined as One Nation Under God.

Just more than 100 days ago at the convention, National Exchange Club and Veterans Matters presented a partnership and our goal to house as many homeless veterans as possible over the course of one year. With Veterans Day as the catalyst, and “11/11@7” as the catchy event name, we asked Exchange Clubs to host simultaneous events to raise money to help house America’s homeless heroes.

Rally_ExchangeClub of OKC 2

Oklahoma City, OK: The Exchange Club of Oklahoma City hosted a 50/50 raffle for 11/11@7.

As I write this, in the aftermath of the 11/11@7 events, I am beaming with pride at what we have accomplished. At least 80 clubs nationwide took up the daunting challenge to pull off inaugural 11/11@7 events. That’s the definition of #ExchangeStrong.

We have not yet heard many of the final fundraising results, but much press coverage was generated, which does offer a glimpse of how successful these events were:

Toledo, OH: “11/11@7 benefits homeless veterans across the country,” The (Toledo) Blade, Nov. 12, 2015

Murfreesboro, TN: “Noon Exchange Raises $ For Homes for Homeless Vets,” WGNS News Radio, Nov. 11, 2015

Oklahoma City, OK: “OKC Exchange, Vets Matter Team Up To End Homelessness,” KWTV News 9, Nov. 11, 2015

We do know that here in Toledo, the Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs united to create our hometown 11/11@7 event, which raised more than $7,500, not including “War Bond” orders that will be sent in.

Some of the Murfreesboro Fire Department firefighters who participated in the chili cookoff hosted by the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN, on 11/11@7.

Murfreesboro, TN: Some of the Murfreesboro Fire Department firefighters who participated in the chili cookoff hosted by the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN, on 11/11@7.

As exciting as these events were, and as proud as we should all be, there are still veterans and families to be housed! I graciously ask you to continue utilizing the online team fundraising tool at https://www.firstgiving.com/1Matters/teams throughout the next year and we will continue working toward our goal of housing America’s heroes. If you would prefer, direct payments can also be made to the area of greatest need at veteransmatter.org/donate or by mailing a check to our office.

We will continue to share updates as we receive them. Additionally, we will be recognizing the top ten small, medium, and large fundraising clubs at Exchange’s 2016 National Convention in Houston, TX. So, keep raising funds, to raise their standard of living!

I, once again, thank you all! I take off my hat and bow to you in gratitude. You are heroes to me!

Onward. Homeward.

Ken Leslie

Founder, Veterans Matter

PS Below are just a few of the reports from Exchange Clubs across the nation who hosted 11/11@7 events. Click here for a Facebook album of more photos and reports from 11/11@7 events across the nation. What did we miss? We’d love to hear more stories and see more photos! Click the “Contact us” link to call or email us, or reach out via Facebook or Twitter to share information from your club. Thank you for helping us #GetVetsHoused!

———-

11/11@7 RALLY REPORTS

A display about Veterans Matter at Culver's in Findlay, Ohio.

Findlay, OH: A display about Veterans Matter at Culver’s in Findlay, Ohio.

Toledo, Ohio: The Exchange Clubs of Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay, and Maumee together with Veterans Matter, and with support of the Lucas County Commissioners and Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, hosted the first ever “11/11@7” event to raise money to house local homeless veterans. Nearly $7,500 was generated through the two-hour USO-style event, held at the Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Hall, which featured a chili cook-off, a silent auction, and live music provided by Toledo duo Candice Coleman and Chris Brown.

Perrysburg, Ohio: The Exchange Club of Perrysburg partnered with two area Bob Evans restaurants to donate a portion of proceeds to Veterans Matters on Veterans Day.

Findlay, Ohio: Vicki and Randy Stone of the Findlay Exchange Club placed 10 donation centers around area businesses in the community to raise funds and awareness for Veterans Matter, including Culver’s (pictured here).

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: The Exchange Club of Oklahoma City hosted a 50/50 raffle for 11/11@7. The club reports: “Between online donations and the rally we made $1,505 — enough to re-house two veterans! We exceeded our fundraising goal be 201% We will be donating 100% of the money collected to Veterans Matter to help eliminate our veteran homeless population in Oklahoma. A big thank you to all our sponsors who helped make this donation possible. Two homeless veterans will be on their way to new housing because of our local community and supporters.”

State Senators Jim Tracy, left, and Bill Ketron were enjoying the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN's 11/11@7 chili cookoff to help homeless veterans. Ketron is a past president of the Murfreesboro Noon Exchange Club and was formerly the Past National President of Exchange. Photo Courtesy News Radio WGNS

Murfreesboro, TN: State Senators Jim Tracy, left, and Bill Ketron were enjoying the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN’s 11/11@7 chili cookoff to help homeless veterans. Ketron is a past president of the Murfreesboro Noon Exchange Club and was formerly the Past National President of Exchange. Photo Courtesy News Radio WGNS

Houston, Texas: Several Exchange Clubs in Houston, including the Memorial Exchange Club and the Downtown Exchange Club, collaborated to organize an 11/11@7 fundraiser through Luby’s, in which the restaurant donated 15% of sale on Veterans Day to Veterans Matter for patrons who came in with a flier. Barbara Sarko Carmichael of the Downtown Exchange Club of Houston reported club members handed out over 1,000 fliers to people and groups in Houston, including at city hall. In addition, Carmichael said she is “happy to report that we have raised $2,275 from both online and in-house donations (at weekly club luncheons). Our goal to help house three veterans by 11/11/15 has been met. We have also raised some funds through Luby’s 15% donations for dining on 11/11 in Houston. This amount is not included in our total. We will begin working on our next VM fundraiser that we hope to have by the middle of 2016. We are also hoping for one at the end of 2016. Texas takes care of its own!” The Memorial Exchange Club in Houston hosted an 11/11@7 reception

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: The Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro hosted a chili cookoff with chili by the Murfreesboro Fire Department.

Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. "He wasn't able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit," said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. Thank you for your service, Sandon! Photo Courtesy Maureen Cole Tobin

Lincoln Park, MI: Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. “He wasn’t able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit,” said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. Thank you for your service, Sandon! Photo Courtesy Maureen Cole Tobin

Jackson, Tennessee: On Facebook, Martin Jelinek noted: “Great event for an amazing cause! Glad to be part of a club that cares and does something for the people that fought and fight to keep us free. #ExchangeStrong”

North Tonawanda, N.Y.: The Erie-Niagara Sunrise Exchange Club hosted an 11/11@7 event at the Stephen Sikora Post 1322 members in North Tonawanda, NY, featuring a basket raffle.

Jacksonville, Florida: The Exchange Club of Jacksonville organized an 11/11@7 fundraiser with three area Bruster’s. $1 of each waffle cone sold on Veterans Day was donated to Veterans Matter.

Lincoln Park, Michigan: Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. “He wasn’t able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit,” said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. The club is still totaling donations, but has raised about $9,000!

Naugatuck, Connecticut: The Naugatuck Exchange Club kicked off its Find a Home for Veterans campaign on 11/11@7. The club reports: “We enjoyed a good turnout of veterans, dignitaries, club members and the general public at Jesse Camille’s restaurant. George Gray planned and organized the event and the ongoing project. Thank you George!! Great kick off! Thanks to all that attended and who have donated to help reach our goal to house a vet. Exchange Club is the root, but there are so many branches out there assisting us which is so appreciated.”

 

 
 

You may have heard that Veterans Matter has recently partnered with the National Exchange Club on a simple mission: To house as many homeless veterans as we can, as fast as we can.

We are kicking off a yearlong fundraising campaign on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) at 7 p.m. with simultaneous events to be held by Exchange Clubs in 50+ cities nationwide. We’re calling it 11/11@7 and collectively we hope to raise enough money to house 2,000 veterans over the next year.

As part of this effort, we are offering the purchase of “War Bonds.”

These “War Bonds” demonstrate our bond as regular Americans to join the battle to end veteran homelessness and can be ordered in any amount to honor any service member or veteran (Because of the high-end printing, we need to set a minimum amount of $25). They will be 8½-by-11 inches, printed on high-end paper, so very suitable for displaying at your home or business, acknowledging your support and paying respect to the service member or veteran honored. An order form can be found below. This is an opportunity to promote our collective efforts to house our heroes still on the streets by honoring those who serve or have served

Click here for the “War Bond” order form.

To learn more about the partnership between National Exchange Club and Veterans Matter, visit www.veteransmatter.org/nec.

War Bond Order Info

 

We got this urgent request this morning:

Hi Ken,

I don’t know if you’re operating in South Carolina yet but, as a result of the recent flooding in our area, six (6) of our veterans lost their homes and most if not all of their belongings are gone. Several have no family, no place to go and remain in their apartments despite exposure to cold because they have no electricity and they try to ignore the mildew that is growing all around them, making them sick and threatening to take over the walls. These veterans were already struggling to find employment, some have no source of income and the landlords cannot tell them how soon the apartments can be made livable again. Ken, as you know, the cold weather is approaching and it would be a travesty to see these veterans sitting in shelters because other organizations can’t see their way clear to work together and get the results these veterans need. We need your help and hope you can assist.

Very Truly Yours,

HUD/VASH

WJB Dorn Medical Center

Columbia, SC 29209

We don’t need to say anything more. You know what we need to do. Veterans Matter: We take care of our own.

Click here to donate now. All money raised today will go to house the South Carolina veterans.

-Ken

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