We’re gearing up for our national broadcast campaign and are deeply grateful for the amazing support coming forward.
If you do not believe in miracles, read this, it might convince you.
On a very cold Monday I received a call from the Detroit VA’s homeless veterans program. They said there was a critical need for Detroit and upper Michigan, about 100 veterans will need deposits shortly. That day we began strategizing.
Our model is to try to find a local celebrity anchor and raise funds around that anchor. At the top of the Michigan list was Mitch Albom, because his compassion, love and commitment for the unhoused are as deep ours. I heard that someone from my church might have gone to Haiti with Mitch and could be a conduit for an approach. That Sunday I was going to find that person and follow that path.
On Wednesday of that week I got a call from a Dr. Chad Audi, who runs the Detroit Rescue Mission. He had been told to call me by Michael Stoops with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington DC. Michael thought I might be able to help Chad with some strategy related to DRMM’s pending decrease in Federal funding.
Any friend of Michael’s is a friend of mine, so I cleared my schedule and spent the next hour or so brainstorming with Dr. Audi. He is an incredible man and great mind, I learned much. At the end of the call he asked what we did. I told him briefly about Veterans Matter and how we had actually gotten a call two days before about the critical need in Detroit, and that someone from my church knew Mitch Albom and was going to try to connect us to see if he could anchor Operation Michigan.
Then, incredulously, Chad said, “I help Mitch with his charities; I think we might be able to help.”
Miracle? I surely am convinced. You?
Mr. Albom quickly agreed to co-chair Michigan and we were off.
Then, this past Monday I get an email from the good Doctor, “Hello Ken. Hope all is well. We are giving up the money on Wed at 10:00am in a press conference. Would you be able to attend?”
I had surmised the words “giving up the money” had to do with the federal funds, so I replied that I was not sure how useful I could be, but if he wants me there, I am there.
It took a couple more emails for me to finally change gears and register that he and Mitch were having the press conference to distribute the funds from his annual SAY Detroit radio-thon, and Veterans Matter – Operation Michigan would be one of the recipients.
The next thing I know I was driving to a pres s conference on Wednesday at the WJR studios in Detroit and having no idea what to expect. I found myself in a room full of the most incredible people, true freaking heroes. I was awestruck.
They really are the fabric that is holding Detroit together.
They were miracles themselves.
I mean, like the guy sitting next to me Kevin Ramsby, who was stabbed 37 times and left for dead. So when he recovered, he decided to move into that neighborhood to help create Hope Village Detroit – a better environment for that community.
Or Faith Fowler, with Cass Community Social Services, an awesome spirit! COTS, the shelter we took John Mellencamp to, received $25,000 for their child care program.
All are incredible spirits, incredible miracles. Click here to see the rest.
So between Mitch Albom, who takes a very significant amount of time out of his life to NOT just write checks, but to get involved at ground level with his charities, to the room full of heroes; for one of the first times in my life I was awestruck, and believe it or not, even tongue tied.
So goofy me, having had nothing prepared, went to the microphone and said my usual opening line followed with, “and I have no idea how I got here,” and then shared the story, including the call that morning about 15 Detroit veterans meeting that day to get housed.
Right after getting the big check and shaking the hands of Mr. Albom, and Dr. Audi, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. It was Battle Creek VA staff wanting to house two Battle Creek veterans.
So now we are setting out to raise the balance of the money needed to help the remaining 80 homeless Michigan veterans. If you want to help too, we have set up a special text line; Just text “mitch” to 41444 to donate any amount on your credit card. Michigan really does take care of its own.
We got a call this week from the Austin, Texas, VA. There was a fire in a housing complex and the building is being condemned and twelve veterans will be displaced. Though they are not technically “homeless,” they asked if this would be something we could help with? It took the Operation Texas funders less than a minute to respond “Hell ya!”, AND they want to help the veterans replace their furniture and personal belongings. Texas really does take care of its own.
Latest Tally: 200 Veterans Housed to Date YES—TWO HUNDRED!
Here is the breakdown.
Operation Hometown: 65
Operation Texas: 114
Operation New England: 9
Operation Indiana: 9
Operation Michigan: 3
Home Again – April 6th , Forrester’s on the River, 2 pm to 7 pm
DETROIT, Michigan – Best-selling author, journalist and broadcaster Mitch Albom has joined music legends John Mellencamp, ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, and Kix Brooks in supporting Veterans Matter.
“Our veterans – those men and women who have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom – deserve better than a home on the streets. I’m happy to lend my name to an organization that is fighting to change this, and I’m honored to support them in whatever way possible,” said Mr. Albom.
As the honorary chairman of the Michigan chapter of Veterans Matter, Albom will be expanding the reach of the innovative organization that is focused on providing housing to as many Michigan veterans as possible, as quickly as possible.
“Mitch just seriously cares. I had gotten an email on a Monday from the Detroit VA saying they needed our help. By Wednesday, Mr. Albom was all in, and we already have 16 Detroit veterans in the process of getting homes.” said Ken Leslie, founder of Veterans Matter and himself formerly homeless.
Like Mellencamp, Hill, and Brooks, Albom is focused not just on raising funds to support the mission of Veterans Matter, but to engage a wider audience about the issues facing veterans and their families through social media and public-service announcements.
With the backing of the legendary musicians, Veterans Matter has housed almost 200 veterans in five states.
“”There are over 57,000 veterans on the streets and in the shelters of our nation, where many are beaten, robbed, even killed. Yet if this happened behind enemy lines we would be outraged. We just want to take care of our own.” said Mr. Leslie.
Veterans Matter partners with the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help house homeless veterans. While voucher-assisted living is currently available to homeless veterans, rental deposits must be provided to landlords before veterans can move into their own apartments. Since rental deposits, averaging $750, are not easily or quickly covered by government programs, Veterans Matter speeds up the process by quickly funding deposits direct to landlords to get veterans immediately over the threshold and into housing.
For more information you can visit Veterans Matter.org/Michigan
What does Veterans Matter mean to those we serve? We housed our first veteran in Indiana on February 7th and got this email the same day:
I wanted to send you a quick note and thank you for your assistance today. The Veteran that I am working with is so excited that he will be moving into his own apartment in the next couple of days. He is an OEF/OIF Combat Veteran and has been homeless since returning from Iraq (over one year). He is married with a daughter and they have been what we call “couch surfing”, going from place to place and staying with anyone that will let them for a bit. The little girl is the cutest baby you have ever seen. She is about 8 months old and just starting to get around. It is awesome that she will have her very own home to learn to walk in.
I am the first Social worker in my department to utilize your organization to assist our Veterans since we learned about it a week or so ago. I have been telling everyone all day how amazingly easy it was to do the application and no one can believe that I have gotten the Veteran approved for his deposit money in just a couple of hours! This is unheard of and one of the biggest obstacles that we have to deal with in trying to get our Veteran’s housed.
I don’t know if you know this but it has been below 0 degrees for weeks here. This is not a good time to be a homeless person. Thank you so much for helping me help a Homeless Veteran and his family.
Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Outreach Social Worker
VA Northern IN HCS /Fort Wayne VAMC
This is why we are doing what we do.
As of last count there are now 57,219 unhoused veterans abandoned and forgotten on our nation’s streets. Streets where they have been beaten, robbed, even killed. Yet if this happened behind enemy lines, we, as Americans, would be outraged! Veterans Matter is the result of our outrage.
Veterans Matter is basically the outrage of a small group of people who are taking a one year sabbatical from our day jobs to accomplish one mission: To help communities get as many unhoused veterans as we can off the streets and into housing, as fast as we can.
Our mission is not creating a massive organization, it is more like we are called up from the reserves. We expect the VASH program to cease at the end of next year and intend to go back to our day jobs then. But for this year, Congress allocated another $75 million for the program, meaning another 10,000 vouchers will be issued. Of those we think we will be needed to help house at least 1000 of those veterans.
We designed Veterans Matter to support the HUD VASH program because we found a small hole locally preventing our heroes from crossing the threshold into READY, available housing.
It it cool for us how it evolved. We realized our local hole was actually a national hole and our unhoused veterans were falling through those holes.
We essentially went national after Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, who was helping us out with some PSA’s met some of the veterans we have housed. He was very moved and decided to go back to Houston and raise some money to help their local veterans. Because Dusty and his wonderful wife Charlene “Chuck” Hill got just as outraged as us, $70,000 was raised to date and 109 unhoused veterans are now housed, and Operation Houston has expanded to become Operation Texas.
Nationwide we are at about two hundred veterans housed in five states, with Washington State and Detroit coming online this month. We are finding the larger cities have some mufti-purpose funds available through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families, while the smaller cities and rural areas, like Fort Wayne, have urgent needs. We are looking for the places with the most critical need and then filling that hole.
The latest addition is the state pf Tennessee where Kix Brooks (Brooks and Dunn) is now taking the helm as Honorary Chair for Tennessee, so we suspect we will be online there this month as well.
On the even more great news front, we confirmed this week that the Veterans Matter Memorial Day campaign will be airing nationally in 110 markets. Stay tuned for the list of artists in each radio format.
This is just a really cool campaign of some people that just came out of the blue and said “Hell ya i want to help.” If you see ways you might be able to help, let us know.
Veterans Matter: We take care of our own!
Kix Brooks official press release:
KIX BROOKS NAMED HONORARY CHAIR FOR VETERANS MATTER – TENNESSEE CHAPTER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio – Award-winning recording artist and country music star Kix Brooks is the first honorary chairman of the Tennessee chapter of Veterans Matter, expanding the reach of an organization focused on providing housing to as many of our veterans as possible, as quickly as possible.
There are more than 57,000 homeless veterans across the country, and in Tennessee, 991 vets don’t have roofs over their heads.
“It’s really important to me that we take care of our service men and women,” said Brooks. “There are so many precautions taken to be sure they’re safe while they’re serving, but we also need to keep in mind what happens when they get home. Too often, they have been abandoned and forgotten on our nation’s streets and Veterans Matter is an organization that I am honored to be involved with for supporting veterans who need assistance getting back on their feet.”
Veterans Matter partners with the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help house homeless veterans. While voucher-assisted living is currently available to about 170 Tennessee veterans, rental deposits must be provided to landlords before veterans can move into their own apartments. Since rental deposits, averaging $750, are not easily or quickly covered by government programs, Veterans Matter speeds up the process by quickly funding deposits direct to landlords to get veterans immediately into housing.
“The support of Kix Brooks will undeniably save lives and help resuscitate health and dignity to those who have sacrificed for our country, and now are in dire need,” said Ken Leslie, founder of Veterans Matter.
Brooks is focused not just on raising funds to support the mission of Veterans Matter, but to engage a wider audience about the issues facing veterans and their families through social media and public-service announcements. Ninety cents of every dollar raised goes to immediate housing for our country’s military veterans.
“This is such a simple program. There are thousands of veterans and veterans’ families on the streets tonight. Many are just waiting on housing they are already approved for by HUD and the VA, but just need the rental deposit to get in their home,” said Mr. Brooks.
Since its founding in 2012, Veterans Matter has housed 180 veterans in 33 cities in five states.
Visit Operation Tennessee at www.VeteransMatter.org/Tennessee to learn more.
# # #
Veterans Matter is a program of 1Matters.org, and was started in 2012 by Ken Leslie, who was homeless before kicking drugs and alcohol in 1990. As the CEO of a small executive search firm since 1994, Leslie is a long time philanthropist dedicated to helping others in desperate need.
Following his run as one half of one of Country Music¹s most successful duos of all time, Kix Brooks continues his career as a solo touring/recording artist while simultaneously exploring new paths. With new production and lead acting credits for two recent film releases under his belt, he is currently nominated for the “ACM’s National On Air Personality of the Year,” which follows Brooks’ third CMA “National Broadcast Personality of The Year” win for his radio show American Country Countdown. Brooks also hosts his Kickin’ It with Kix radio show five nights a week, co-owns Nashville’s award-winning winery Arrington Vineyards, is a columnist for Country Weekly and has recently added public speaking to his resume. For a list of upcoming tour dates and more information on new projects, visit www.kixbrooks.com.
Veterans Matter: Jean Mollmann jean[at]veteransmatter[dot]org
Kix Brooks: Tyne Parrish, The GreenRoom, tyne[at]thegreenroompr[dot]com
On February 6th, 2012 founder Ken Leslie was talking to the VA VASH coordinator Shawn Dowling about why some vet friends of his were not housed already in the VASH program. She told him because they were on the streets they had no jobs, so they did not have the average $600 required deposit. That night he conceived Veterans Matter. February 7th he called @Barb Petee with ProMedica and the Toledo Community Foundation, Inc. Promedica Advocacy Fund asking for $26k for the Veterans Matter pilot program. Though foundations are notoriously slow, he asked for it at black ops speed as there were veterans waiting. On February 10th, 6.30 am Ken was fleshing out the program operations manual this song below was released, he was number 376 to hear it. 7 days later, Valentines Day, at 5:36 pm Barb called with full funding. 3 days later the first veteran was housed out of the local family shelter. 11 days from idea to funding, all because Veterans Matter: We take care of our own.
We promised growth in 2014, but we didn’t think it would come through this soon! Fort Wayne, Indiana and Seattle, Washington are official operations! Both new towns are working on getting their first veteran housed. Detroit Michigan is only days away from joining the squad as well! Who knows what other areas will spring up by the end of the year? (Big Surprises Coming!) This growth will help us get the 1000 veterans housed this year!
FIRST: We got an email from the Detroit VA seeking our help, asap. If you know someone in Detroit who can assume the role of Regional Funding Coordinator, call us today. We are working on the celebrity co-chair for their as we type.
We have now housed 180 veterans and veteran families in Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Massachusetts, and Settle just got a commitment for some start up funds.
We have been sooooo busy housing Veterans and planning for 2014, we have had little time to post. Below is the update that just went out to our Houston Area of Operation, as well as one that went to all of our registered VA social workers. Here is the latest!
5 more housed this week, four in Dallas!!!! Way to go people! Dallas was astounded that we really do move to help the veterans as fast as we say we do.
Overall, to date we have raised $180k for Veterans Matter, $70k of that has come from Houston, and they have now housed 95 veterans in Texas! How cool is that!
Just today we got a commitment for $5000 for Seattle so we will be opening the operation there immediately. We are now targeting Nashville, San Diego, and Detroit. We got a call from Detroit this week begging for our help. It was so moving, lit my ass on fire. We are setting up a couple meetings there next week. If you all know someone we should talk to in Detroit, let Gary know asap.
Which is a great segue to….
In the Board news, we are thrilled Gary Fruchtman has agreed to join the 1Matters Board of Directors. His love, passion and commitment, and support is such a blessing to the organization, as it has been to me personally the past twenty years. At our year end meeting last month the Board voted to go all out to house as many veterans as we can this year. We really would like to help at least 1000 veterans this year. To that end we are formalizing our existing structure and the model we learned from your work, and then successfully replicated in Indiana. Following Dusty’s example, other compassionate artists are helping to raise the awareness, and Gary, assuming the position of National Funding Chairman for Veterans Matter, will engage the business community in those targeted areas. Gary will be looking to engage Regional Funding Coordinators who can gather friends to raise $25K – $50k. (think Kevin in Houston) and Funding Coordinators who raise $5000 to $25,000. (Think the rest of the cool kids in Houston.)
In Indiana, bragging them up, once John M. signed on for Indiana, Jody Balber, the person Gary engaged as the Regional Funding Coordinator in Indiana raised $38k in eleven hours. Eleven fa-reaking hours. John was impressed and Tweeted her up the next day. #wetakecareofourown.
We will need to hire a Project Coordinator who will work directly with the VASH social workers to facilitate the referrals, problem resolution, and identify other assets that could help the veterans. (i.e. Sheri’s program, gift cards, etc.) Also, to facilitate implementation in the VASH programs nationwide, Shawn Dowling with the VA here, who helped start this thing in the first place, is setting up a conference call with the national VA VASH leaders. If that goes well she feels they will help us fast track implementation in all future targeted areas of operation if the information/introduction comes from “upstairs.”
That’s enough for now. A lot going on, which means not a lot of time to tell everyone. We are integrating all facets of the program into one software package which will allow the us to regularly disseminate more information.
All this is great stuff, but all that really counts is the 180 heads who are sleeping on 180 beds in 180 homes, JUST because you decided “America Takes Care of Our Own.”
Thank you all!
Ps. Below is the update we sent to all of our registered VASH managers, got great feedback from it. We will be sending them all a survey next to identify any other ways we can serve them, or the veterans they serve, better.
Hi there Susanna,
We are sending this to all of our registered VASH managers and social workers because we would like to keep you up to date on all of the amazing stuff going on here at Veterans Matter. We have been so busy housing veterans with you that we have had no time to send an update!
We have 42 registered VASH staff in Texas, 11 out of Ann Arbor, and three in New England we are working with. We have now housed 170 veterans in 32 cities in 4 states: Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Massachusetts. We are currently expanding to Indiana, and working on securing the funds for San Diego and Detroit.
We are getting big enough that we are hiring a Program Coordinator (PC) to help us, help you. This will mean you will get very regular updates on the progress of your peers, the program, and ways we have found to get our veterans housed faster.
The Houston Funding Coordinators decided to expand from Houston alone to all of Texas. Dallas has already housed TWO veterans there this year.
Check this out, the same day we opened up fundraising for Operation Indiana we had the program fully funded at $38,000. It took 11 hours! We are now working to engage the Indiana social workers.
We asked the VASH managers and social workers how they use Veterans Matter and they say: 1) To preserve SSVF money for already housed veterans. 2) Because lease up funds for homeless veterans are in short supply in their area. 3) They need to house the veteran fast and don’t want to wait for other programs (which could take longer), require the veteran to get another case manager, housing plan, etc. We are glad to serve you all no matter what reason. And if you think of a way we can serve you better, let us know. WE SEEK YOUR ADVICE! If you think of a way we can help you even better, we want to hear it. Our goal is just to help you, help our veterans.
If you thought you heard about Veterans Matter on the radio, you did. Cumulus Broadcasting ran our Dusty Hill, John Mellencamp, and Kix Brooks (Brooks and Dunn) PSA’s nationally November 1 – 11.
Our goal this year simply to house as many veterans as we can, as fast as we can. We hope to help 1000 veterans nationwide.
AND, we want to say great work to you all in reducing the number of unhoused veterans to 57,849. We know you worked your tails off to make that happen. YOU are the heroes in this story. We look forward to the honor of serving you. Thank you for the amazing 2013. 2014 looks very promising.
How would you like to give the greatest gift of all- A home to a homeless veterans? During the Holidays we are using Indiegogo to raise enough to house 30 Veterans before Christmas, nationwide. We can house the unhoused veterans as soon as the V.A. finds them. This holiday season, you can set aside a little money to give a hero who fought for our homes, a warm home for the holidays. To donate online you can go to Indiegogo.com and search “Veterans Matter.” We take care of our own.
This year our pilot program has housed 157 veterans and veteran families. For next year our goal is to house at least 1000 veterans. So far we have working Areas of Operation in Texas, New England, Indiana, Seattle and Hometown (Ohio and Michigan,) collectively targeting to house 300 veterans in those areas.
No one wants to be without a home during the holidays…. could you imagine? These men and women fought for our very lives and freedoms, we feel the least we could do to repay them is with a small contribution to get them housed! Our average to house a veterans is $750, this includes the deposit and first month’s rent if needed. For one person that may be a lot, but if everyone just gives a little it really builds up fast. So tell your friends and family, work and church! Maybe even put a donation bowl at your Christmas party saying “Home Again for the Holidays- Veterans Matter Donations”.
We are just a small group of Americans who came together to help some of our heroes who have been abandoned and forgotten on our nations streets. Right now we just want to get the word out so others who feel the same way can help us do the right thing. The Indiegogo campaign is just that, your chance to give from $5 to $10,000. All money raised goes to the Veterans Matter program to help house more veterans. Here is the link: Click Here! Please hit the share button and send it to your friends, family, and co-workers! We need to house these veterans!
Currently your mail box is filled with organizations asking for money. But Veterans Matter channels your gift straight to help those on the streets get housed. Many times literally the same day the VA has them ready. You can help Veterans Matter house 30 veterans for Christmas! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Spread the word! If you can’t give, maybe a friend or relative can. We need help getting the word out to other Americans who feel like we do: “Veterans Matter, we must take care of our own.”