Veterans Matter, a program created to house homeless veterans and backed by 20 celebrities including Katy Perry, ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, John Mellencamp, Susan Sarandon, Kid Rock and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, reaches a milestone this Veteran’s Day, housing its 500th homeless veteran and their family.
Established in 2012, Veterans Matter has produced significant, immediately visible results in six states across the country thanks to efficient operations, low overhead and laser focus.
The program partners directly with a voucher-assisted housing program created by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides homeless veterans long term housing. Because homeless veterans typically do not have the funds for initial required rental deposits, Veterans Matter bridges the gap by raising money and routing it directly to a ready veteran’s landlord. The innovative program uses an online cloud-based system providing for deposit approvals in minutes with deposit checks sent directly to the landlord that same day. This efficiency allows the program to keep costs extremely low with only 17% going to administrative expenses — the rest goes directly to the deposits that help veterans get off the streets and cross the threshold into their own warm homes.
“I created this program to house 35 veterans in Toledo, Ohio. Once Dusty Hill heard about it, he and his wife started a Houston group with several compassionate business leaders there and they’ve already housed 258 Texas veterans. It started scaling from there,” says Ken Leslie, the program’s founder who had been homeless earlier in his life. “I figured if we keep it fast, efficient and focused, most of the money could actually help veterans and their families replace sidewalks with pillows.”
The program has housed veterans and their families, including over 200 children, in Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts and Washington, with a new Mid-Atlantic chapter starting to raise the funds to house homeless veterans in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Leslie credits the growth to the celebrity supporters who are lending their voices and raising funds and a generous biannual radio campaign donated by Cumulus Media and other radio properties spanning 50 states. In the public service announcements, notables call on Americans to help the cause by texting ‘VETS’ to 41444 and donating any amount. Funds immediately and directly go to provide a veterans with rental deposits, putting them in their own home quickly and safely. To see the list of celebrities who have pitched in and view their videos visitveteransmatter.org/broadcast.
Veterans Matter raises only enough money to account for the number of housing vouchers available in a given area of operation and then moves onto the next region of need. For more information, visit VeteransMatter.org or Facebook.com/VeteransMatter.
Veterans Matter is a program of the John Mellencamp sparked and supported non-profit 1Matters.org, which was founded by Leslie in 2007. Homeless before kicking drugs and alcohol in 1990, Leslie is now the CEO of a small executive search firm for the technology industry.