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Veterans Radio

Sunday August 30, 2015
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When Veterans Matter founder Ken Leslie was told a $750 deposit was all that was preventing four local chronically homeless veterans from being housed, with 31 more vouchers in the pipeline. Ken realized it was a simple problem with a simple solution: find money and pay the deposit to the landlord, pushing them over the threshold into that ready housing.

The next morning Ken called Barb Petee, an executive at ProMedica Health System, to get the $26,250 pilot funding from the Toledo Community Foundation’s ProMedica Advocacy Fund. With veterans waiting, he also asked her to waive the normal three month foundation due diligence process.

Seven days later, on Valentine’s Day at 5:36 pm, Barb called with full funding. Veterans Matter’s first veteran family was housed out of the family shelter three days later. Eleven days from idea to implementation.

Tune in this Sunday to hear Veterans Radio’s Jim Fausone interview Ken Leslie, founder of Veterans Matter. Ken tells us more about the program and how they help to keep homeless veterans off the streets and into homes. And much much more. Don’t miss this very important program.

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All Gave Some. Some Gave All.
Always Remember


Great news to report!

How incredible… I am truly moved to tears. Within 24 hours of our urgent post yesterday, $100,000 was raised to house our heroes!

  • The Houston team, led by Kathy Walton and Kevin Maley, raised $50,000, enough money to re-open referrals AND house the 79 veterans currently in process there. This incredible team has now raised close to $170,000 and housed nearly 350 Texas veterans.
  • Jordan Reses (an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based national distributor of medical equipment and supplies) also stepped up, donating another $50,000 to cover all of Mississippi, and the balance split between Houston and Colorado. This is on top of the $81,000 they donated earlier in the year. They and their employees have now generously donated $131,000 to house our heroes this year!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all for your compassion for our nation’s veterans! You are providing men, women and children the means to sleep with a pillow under their head, in their own room, in their own home.

As an aside, I want to mention that both groups will likely be pissed that I am mentioning them like this. They all prefer the behind-the-scenes thing. But my nature has always been to give credit where credit is due. They have answered the Call to our Duty to provide compassion to those who wore the uniform.

I take off my hat and bow to say “Thank you, friends.”




Good news and bad news.

Good news first: We have now housed 722 veterans in 110 cities. (See below) We point out most of these are the hometown heroes in those communities. Most people always go home – if they have one. And if they don’t, where do they go?

Think about it, where do people go when they are sick? Yes, to a home. And you all have provided the donations to house 722 of those! Here are some of the details:

And the need is getting greater. Our norm year-to-date has been one veteran housed a day. We have already housed 63 veterans and veteran families in the last 30 days. How cool is that!

Now the bad news: The need is so great we have now exhausted the funds for several areas of operation.

We have had to put referrals on hold for Michigan, Indiana and Houston. We have also just learned Mississippi is in great need. So this is what we need:

Michigan: 75 veterans, Average $651 = $48,825

Mississippi: 25 veterans, Average $600 = $15,000

Indiana: 42 veterans, Average $500 = $21,000

Houston: 75 veterans, Average $600 = $45,000

If there is anyone you want us to talk to, please let us know. We can get this done for our veterans. Let’s take care of our own!

-Ken Leslie,
Founder, Veterans Matter

Here are the cities and towns in which we’ve housed veterans to date:

Colorado: Colorado Springs

D.C.: Washington, Hyattsville

Indiana: Anderson, Bloomington, Elkhart, Fairmount, Fort Wayne, Gas City, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Marion, Martinsville, Mishawaka, Muncie, Shelbyville, South Bend, Terre Haute

Michigan: Ann Arbor, Augusta, Bath, Battle Creek, Detroit, Ferdale, Flint, Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Highland Park, Howell, Jackson, Jonesville, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Lincoln Park, Monroe, Munith, Muskegon, Otsego, Port Huron, Saginaw, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Taylor, Three Rivers, Walker, Waterford, White Cloud, Ypsilanti

New England: Andover, Arlington, Beverly, Boston, Dorchester, Malden, Randolph, Revere

Ohio: Clyde, Dayton, Findlay, Fostoria, Fremont, Greenville, Holland, Maumee, Northwood, Oak Harbor, Sidney, Sylvania, Tiffin, Toledo, Xenia

Texas: Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Bonham, Buda, Converse, Coperas Cove, Dallas, Dickinson, Duncanville, Galveston, Garland, Houston, Humble, Katy, Killeen, Mabank, Orange, Plano, San Antonio, Sherman, Temple, Texas City, Tyler, Waco, Warda, Webster

Washington: Federal Way, Fife, Lakewood, Puyallup, Seattle, Spanaway, Tacoma, Vancouver


ken crowd big

Ken speaking to a room full of people committed to help our homeless veterans last week at the National Exchange Club’s national convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Last week I spoke to 700+ National Exchange Club members at their National Convention in Columbus. I love speaking at national conventions because one speech can help house hundreds of veterans in countless cities nationwide. Highly efficient. But I LOVED speaking at the Exchange Club convention because they were exactly like me.

I had never known what the Exchange Clubs did despite the fact their national headquarters are one block from our offices in Toledo. I just knew they flew a field of flags once or twice a year. But when I found out the full scope of their efforts, I knew I wanted to join. I found out the reason I have never heard of them is because they just do things to change the world. They are more interested in doing and have less of a desire to self-promote.

Exactly like we are. We have been a community’s secret weapon. Take Houston for example. I met Houston’s Mayor, Annise Parker, last year at the White House Summit to End Veteran Homelessness where First Lady Michelle Obama issued her Mayor’s Challenge. Mayor Parker recently announced that Houston has effectively done that and ended veteran homelessness in Houston. Those who know me will tell you I am quite cynical. But truly, Houston has done an incredible job of creating a system that will end homelessness for every veteran who becomes unhoused over the next five years. And Veterans Matter is a quiet link in that process, having already housed 350 or so of Houston’s now formerly homeless veterans.

So too is the Exchange Club. For example, with over 20,000 members in 650 clubs nationwide, they have been on the forefront of funding Child Abuse Prevention in their local communities. Same with their Community Service and “Americanism” platforms. In my mind, they have reclaimed the word “Patriot” from a political context and placed it back to its original and true meaning: Unbridled love of our country.

That love of country is a love for our veterans, translating into ACTION for America’s homeless veterans and veteran families with children. We are pleased to announce that Exchange Clubs nationwide will be hosting simultaneous “Veterans Matter 11/11 @ 7 Rallies to House America’s Veterans” on Veterans Day (11/11) in over 100 cities nationwide, to kick off their fundraising efforts to house 2,000 veterans over the next year. They will be inviting all VFWs, veterans service organizations and anyone who cares about veterans in their own communities to join them in sponsoring their local rally. If a community does not have an Exchange Club, we will work to find other partners to host the rally in their community, which hopefully will turn into a new club comprised of those who feel as we do.

I have now become a member of the National Exchange Club because their Patriotism translates into action. Like me, they love our homeless veterans enough to actually do something about it. At Veterans Matter, we take care of our own!


P.S. If you would like to participate in a 11/11 @ 7 Rally in your community, or want to host one, just contact us for the details.

#ExchangeStrong #GetVetsHoused

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Americanism in action for homeless veterans through Veterans Matter and the National Exchange Club

Anyone can wave a flag. Many do, then go back home. It takes a dedicated group to plant hundreds of flags to create a healing field. That’s Americanism in action. That same love of country and service will soon take healing into the realm of homelessness as hundreds of National Exchange Clubs (NEC) around the country join with their communities to raise funds to house homeless veterans. Each Exchange Club independently supports their community. But interdependently the 20,000 members in 650 clubs form a remarkably strong safety net for our unhoused veterans and veteran families nationwide. They call this “#Exchange Strong.” It is.

DID YOU KNOW? Veterans Matter has a 100% success rate housing homeless veterans in the VA’s LONG-TERM supportive housing program which has a 91% success rate keeping them housed!

Where will you be on 11/11 @ 7?

On Veterans Day at 7 p.m. the clubs will be hosting simultaneous “Veterans Matter 11/11 @ 7 Rally to House America’s Homeless Veterans” at Exchange Clubs in hundreds of cities and towns nationwide!

Independently, on average, each club will work to house three unhoused veterans living on the streets and in the shelter. Interdependently, that’s 2000 veterans housed. They call that “#Exchange Strong.” To each and every one of the veterans and veteran families getting pillows under their heads, they certainly are.

These Exchange Clubs will be hosting Veterans Matter rallies to raise the funds necessary to house these 2000 veterans in their community, region, and nation. Veterans Matter has a 100% success rate housing homeless veterans in the VA’s LONG-TERM supportive housing program which has a 91% success rate keeping them housed! (Yes, you read that right: a government program with a success rate of over 90%! Hooray HUD and the VA!)

The Exchange Clubs will utilize the Veterans Matter fundraising platform for raising funds, allowing both Exchange Clubs and their Exchangites – the NEC name for club members – to get their communities to come together for the nearly 50,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. With a national average of $750 to house a veteran/veteran family and a goal of housing 2,000 veterans, we are aiming to raise $1.5M. The campaign kicks off with rallies and walks in communites around the nation at 7pm on 11/11, Veteran’s Day.

That $750 per family is the rental deposit most homeless veterans don’t have in order to take advantage of the HUD-VASH vouchers made available in the government’s current winning push to end veteran homelessness. That’s right; there are veterans on the streets tonight who don’t have to be, they have found a home and all they need is the deposit. To date, Veterans Matter has housed over 650 veterans in Colorado, D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Along with many of those veterans come their spouses and dependents, meaning we have moved nearly 1,000 people off our nation’s streets and out of its shelters. Not bad for Veterans Matter’s small group of regular Americans!

Defining Americanism

Americanism is term used specifically by NEC to describe service that promotes “pride in country, respect for the flag and appreciation of Americans’ freedoms”. Their partnership with Veterans Matter is the perfect expression of Americanism and new-but-familiar way for Exchange Clubs to engage with their communities to make an impact to veteran lives across the U.S.

While the news is spreading among the National Exchange Clubs and Veterans Matter’s network of supporters, the approximately 100-day countdown won’t officially kick off until August 1 at the NEC’s National Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Veterans Matter’s founder Ken Leslie will both address the attendees at their One Nation Under God Luncheon as well as lead a session on using the campaign to raise Awareness in their community. Veterans Matter will also be present with T-shirts and pins for sale that will help Exchangites spread the word.

Veterans Matter is working on a collection of tools for Exchange Clubs to use in their efforts, including press releases, sponsorship letters, social media components, event flyers, and other similar materials. In addition to this, Veterans Matter is now having a weekly conference call/webinar every Monday at noon EST for anyone seeking more information about the Veterans Matter program or rallies. Contact Veterans Matter if you would like to join us.

What is NEC?

“America’s Service Club” was founded in 1911 in Detroit, Michigan, by Charles A. Berkey. Within two years, the group dedicated to exchanging “ideas and information with like-minded individuals about how to better serve their communities” had spread to Toledo, Ohio, where the NEC’s headquarters are now located. (In fact it is a few hundred yards from the Veterans Matter office.) Dedicated to serving their communities, Clubs are organized around three main “Programs of Service”: Americanism, Youth Programs, and Community Service. Child Abuse Prevention is the NEC’s National Project. Within those realms, Exchange Clubs make a strong impact through a variety of specific initiatives at local and national levels. Membership has its benefits, and once they found out all the the Clubs do, our organization has been proud to have three of our team members join local Exchange Clubs Join us! Stronger clubs equal more veterans housed!

Veterans Matter loves the National Exchange Club’s spirit of patriotism, and is excited about this new partnership to see Americanism in action in the lives of our veterans living on our streets and in our shelters. Together, we’ll make sure we take care of our own!


Veterans Matter has just housed its first pair of four-legged friends along with their veteran. Here’s the story from the VASH social worker…

Rocky & Ginger

Rocky & Ginger, a Veteran’s two best friends

Approximately four years ago the Veteran was laid off from Jones Heartz when the company downsized. He worked on his feet every day, challenged by neuropathy while working in shipping, receiving and deliveries. After getting laid off from his job, the Veteran began to experience increased marital problems primarily due to financial hardship. Shortly thereafter the Veteran foreclosed on the home he lived in comfortably for seven years. Following the foreclosure the Veteran and his wife split up. The Veteran still had his four-door sedan and two dogs, Rocky and Ginger. The following Christmas, he had been living in his sedan with Rocky and Ginger for 10 months. He had run out of money, food, warmth and hope. He felt overwhelmed and decided anything would be better than sitting in his car freezing. He proceeded to drink a large amount of anti-freeze. His dog Rocky began pulling on his arm, nudging him and whining. The Veteran had almost lost consciousness, but with Rocky’s encouragement he decided to call 911. He was admitted into the hospital and survived the attempt on his life.

“If I hadn’t had them I probably wouldn’t be here. Taking care of my dogs and keeping gas in the car have been my priorities over the past 4 years.”

The Veteran describes that his experience of getting approved into the HUD-VASH program, as well as finding housing to accommodate his dogs, really took a lot of pressure off! When he received the news of approval for housing, tears rolled down his face as he exclaimed, “It just hit me! This is going to be over and I didn’t hardly have any hope left. I’ll finally have a place to live.”

The last obstacle to housing was finding the money for the pet deposit. The Veteran was unwilling to move forward without his companions Rocky and Ginger.

“I wasn’t sure where the money would come from but I remained real hopeful,” the Veteran said.

A request for assistance was submitted to Veterans Matter. The Veteran waited anxiously for the decision. After a short time the deposit request was approved. With the deposit approval from Veterans Matter this Veteran’s last barrier to overcoming homelessness was eradicated.


What if Memorial Day meant SAVING veterans’ lives, not just commemorating them? Tens of thousands of former servicemen and women need our help right now if we want to make sure next Memorial Day we’re not placing flags at their graves.

In a retelling of the Good Samaritan story, a homeless man sits begging at the side of the road. A family with young children passes by, dressed in red, white, and blue, carrying small flags and similar things to wave. In a hurry to get a good spot for the Memorial Day parade, they walk by him, with only the youngest child giving him a second glance. A few minutes later, a local community leader and businessman also passes him by, too busy rehearsing his speech to be delivered at the foot of the veterans’ memorial to see the former serviceman. Finally, a woman whose son’s name is newly listed on that memorial walks past the veteran, then stops and turns around. It is her fallen son’s face she sees and his memory she honors when she skips the parade and the ceremony to talk to the homeless veteran, to hear his story and help him.

What Does Memorial Day Mean?

Just a parable, maybe, but an important reminder that this month is more than just parades, picnics, flags, and memories. Memorial Day has always been about remembering the sacrifices and acts of courage by men and women who’ve fallen in service to their country. By observing this holiday, we are declaring that what was given – the lives of these brave souls – will not be forgotten, and will continue to be honored year after year, generation after generation.
We love Memorial Day. Not because we enjoy celebrating loss, but because we love honoring all who’ve served. We also know that Memorial Day is just one moment of the year that we’ve all agreed to celebrate. We believe it is crucial for us to remember that honoring all who’ve served needs to happen year-round, and with more than just waving flags, reciting speeches, and laying flowers on graves. We have men and women veterans, not yet lost to us, who need our help.
Throughout the year, we receive news stories of homeless veterans who die on our streets. Sometimes, the community honors their service and provides a memorial and a hero’s burial. We read these stories with great sadness, knowing we were too late to help that veteran, knowing this Memorial Day there will be one more veteran who can only be remembered.
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Throughout the year, we also receive comments from the VA social workers who help the veterans we do reach and get housed. They send in notes like this one:
A veteran that was living out of his truck for more than 6 months … had zero income and was unaware of services offered by Veterans Affairs. The veteran did not have money necessary for security deposit, community services would not help due to the sustainability factor with zero income. Veterans Matter was able help this veteran by paying his security deposit. Once in his own apartment, the veteran was able to find work and continues to work on his recovery journey.
He was placed in long-term supportive housing created by a partnership between HUD and the VA, called HUD-VASH. The Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers are part of a nationwide effort to end veteran homelessness by the close of 2015. That’s less than eight months away. Our program provides the money for security deposits so veterans can use VASH vouchers and get into safe housing, which has a 91% success rate keeping them there. Last count, there are still 49,933 veterans in need on our streets. Do you sense the urgency? 
We implore you to not just walk by on your way to the parade. Consider the purpose of Memorial Day – to honor the sacrifices of service to country – by participating in our campaign this month to raise money and awareness to end veteran homelessness. We would ask you to add to your voice and action in recognition that there are tens of thousands of men and women on our streets who are still sacrificing, many because of service to their country. They need our help. And they need your help. Together, we can get them housed today.
Here is what you can do. First donate securely on our site at this page, or use your mobile phone to text VETS to 41444 and click through to donate any amount on your credit card. Second, you can “like” or follow us on Facebook or Twitter , and share our posts and tweets. Third you can visit our spread the word page and share our images, tweets, posts, or even the images of one of the 20+ musicians and celebrities who have also joined our campaign. Fourth, and probably the easiest, share this post right now. 
Former Michigan Governor Granholm summed up our message best when she said:
“Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops and once a year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.” – Jennifer Granholm

Mitch Albom gives away $825,000 to charities serving DetroitMitch Albom got to play Santa Claus yesterday when he gave away $825,000 to nearly 20 different charities which enhance the lives of and health of the citizens of Detroit. From children to seniors, Mitch’s S.A.Y. Detroit covers the most vulnerable people in the famous author and radio host’s hometown, including homeless veterans.


For the second year in a row, Mitch has chosen Veterans Matter as the community solution to help end veteran homelessness in Detroit. Due to Mitch’s gift last year, along with money raised through Katy Perry and Kid Rock, and a recent donation of $20,000 for Operation Michigan from Jordan Rese’s in Ann Arbor, SIXTY THREE veterans and veteran families have been housed through Operation Michigan. That is 111 individuals, 36 of whom are children. Thank you, Mr. Albom. Thank you, Dr. Audi with the Detroit Rescue Mission. And thank you to all those who support Mitch Albom’s S.A.Y. Detroit during the 15-hour Radiothon held last December. Mitch’s donation this year will end homelessness for even more veteran families.

Mitch is one of those incredible individuals, like John Mellencamp, Gary Sinise, and others, who dedicate so much of their success and lives to giving back, to helping others find homes, find peace, and find themselves. They are nothing short of heroes to so many.

They are doing amazing things in Detroit. This video gives you an idea. Some of these programs are so easily replicable they can be done in any community! We hope you will help your community prosper.

Mr. Mitch Albom, Dr. Audi, and all the others… on behalf of all of those veterans and veterans you are helping us house, thank you!

We are grateful to be a recipient of the generosity of Mitch Albom

Women are just one facet of veteran diversity. Here, several USAF airmen (including a woman) salute during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in France.

PICAUVILLE, France – U.S. Air Force Airmen salute as the national anthems of America and France are played during a ceremony in the town of Picauville, France on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2014. The event was one of several commemorations of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day operations conducted by Allied forces during World War II June 5-6, 1944. Over 650 U.S. military personnel have joined troops from several NATO nations to participate in ceremonies to honor the events at the invitation of the French government. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller) (CC BY 2.0)

Like any good nonprofit, we keep records to measure our results as part of our dedication to transparency and program effectiveness. We track when referrals come in, and from where. We document in which branch the veteran served, and in which era and location. We keep data on gender, years served, and whether or not the rental deposit is just for them or for a spouse and/or dependents. A study in veteran diversity, it’s quite fascinating to look at these pages of spreadsheets and realize there is no such thing as a stereotypical homeless veteran. If anything, the information is evidence that anyone can become homeless.

Here are a few snapshots of the information so you can get an idea of the diversity of the men and women veterans we serve:

  • 99 of 579 veterans housed through Veterans Matter are women, 38 of them with children to care for.
  • That’s about 30% of the 119 veteran families with children. Another 30% are single men with dependents.
  • Yes, over 20% of the veterans we house have children who’ve been homeless with them.
  • If the stereotypical homeless veteran is a grizzled old white man, it may be a shock that only 23% of the veterans we’ve served are Vietnam veterans. 35% more have served in conflicts within the last 25 years, including Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or New Dawn (ND).
  • The remaining approximately 42% of veterans now housed through our program have served our country either in other conflicts or in peacetime.
  • 58% are former Army members. 18% were in the Navy, followed by 13% being former Marines. 9% were Air Force service men and women, and 1% spent their service time in the Coast Guard.
  • The veterans we’ve housed have served an average of 3.625 years to protect us.

Pretty amazing to look at the numbers and realize the term “hero” has so many facets to it. Our veterans come from all walks of life to serve for many different reasons. They’ve walked many different paths, but all share this in common: None of them deserve to be homeless. Especially not after what they’ve given, and what they were ultimately willing to give.

Your reasons for caring about veterans are probably as diverse as those heroes themselves. Some of you consider these men and women brothers and sisters in service. Some of you want to honor or memorialize a loved one who was in the military. Some of you simply love your country and hate the idea that it could be a place where veterans are left behind the enemy line of homelessness.

Regardless of why you care, thank you. Thank you for seeing that we serve all who’ve served, and being willing to partner with us in that work. As we get ready for our one of two major yearly campaigns next month, we’d like you to remember why all these men and women – and their children – mean so much to you and get ready to help us push toward our goal of housing 1500 veterans in 2015. We can’t do it without you!



A milestone was reached last week when Operation Texas, the longhorn branch of the nonprofit program Veterans Matter, housed its 300th homeless veteran. Launched in the late summer of 2012 after Dusty Hill, bassist for ZZ Top, decided to get his hometown heroes in Houston off the streets following his recording of a video PSA for the program, Operation Texas has housed an average of two veterans a week. The chapter’s milestone accounts for nearly 53% of the Veterans Matter total number of 567 veterans housed, and is the fastest-growing of Veterans Matter’s 7 operation chapters.

Much of that growth has to do with the commitment of Operation Texas’s board to keeping the funding of the branch alive. Soon after Dusty Hill and his wife Chuck initiated the operation, they were joined by Kevin Maley, (thanks to Veterans Matter board member Gary Fruchtman) owner of KO Supply who started bringing his friends together: Dave and Sheri Henderson, Kathy Walton, Steve and Maybeth Gilbert, Buddy Johnson, Mark LaCour . With just a handful of phone calls, they raised over $55,000 to get the first 75 veterans housed within a month. Now they have collectively donated enough to housed 300. Wow! True Texas, and American Heroes!

That momentum continues today. One of the most significant things to remember about this process is that the HUD-VASH vouchers for which Veterans Matter provides the deposits also ensures housing for the veterans’ spouses and children. That means the 300 veterans Operation Texas has housed actually represents 469 people, once the 36 spouses and 132 children of those veterans are included!

Our hats – cowboy, ten-gallon, pork pie (Ken’s favorite) or otherwise – are off to the amazing team that keeps Operation Texas going and changing the lives of our service men and women and their families. Thank you for your commitment to take care of our own!

If you are in Texas we are in urgent need for funds for Dallas and Austin. For more information check out the Operation Texas page: