Group aids unhousedWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Veterans Matter, a program that aids unhoused veterans, is a collaboration of several local and state groups.
“[Veterans] lay their lives on the line and it’s become acceptable in America for them to get beaten or killed on the streets, but if that happened behind enemy lines, there’d be outrage,” said Ken Leslie, founder of 1Matters, a local nonprofit supporting the unhoused.
Government entities Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing Program (HUD-VASH) provide housing solutions and case management to veterans.
“The government’s really doing this program right,” Leslie said. However, one component is missing — rent deposits. Most unhoused veterans don’t have the means to pay the deposit or first month’s rent upon moving into new homes, something required for housing programs.
“We don’t really do anything, but respond to that need, which is the deposit,” Leslie said. “It’s clean and simple. HUD-VASH already successfully identifies, screens and qualifies the veteran family and housing then provides the case management. For just $700 or so, we the people can take out the delays and get our unhoused veterans into housing.”
Leslie and Shawn Dowling, coordinator of Healthcare for Homeless Veterans of the Ann Arbor VA Health System, realized the need for deposits while talking Feb. 6 and didn’t waste any time. Leslie approached ProMedica’s Advocacy Fund for $26,250 to fund the idea.
“ProMedica is proud to support the Veterans Matter program through the ProMedica Advocacy Fund because our veterans, like all individuals, deserve quality housing. Through these partnerships we can improve the health and well-being of our citizens by providing for their basic needs,” said Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica, in a statement. The fund was established in 2010 and is administered by the Toledo Community Foundation.
After ProMedica provided the funds, the first family was able to leave a shelter for their new home Feb. 17, just 11 days after the project’s conception. The couple’s deposit was $438. So far, five families have been supported by the fund.
About 35 area veteran families, who may need funds from Veterans Matter, qualify for HUD-VASH housing. It is crucial that Veterans Matter reaches these families soon because there are only so many vouchers and dollars per year, Leslie said.
Leslie emphasized that 1Matters will continue its mission of helping everyone affected by being unhoused. “Our focus has not gone away from all of the unhoused. … No matter where you come from, if you’re on the streets, it sucks,” he said. Still, Leslie stressed the importance of helping unhoused veterans.
“We owe the ones who have been the most hurt and damaged by what they experienced fighting for our rights,” he said. Visit http://1matters.org/?page_id=1917 to learn more.
Tags: Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing Program, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, iMatters, Ken Leslie, ProMedica, Randy Oostra, Toledo Community Foundation, Veterans Matter