Started in 1990 as the Homeless Awareness Project, in 2008 HAP became 1Matters after a visit by singer John Mellencamp to their annual event. John was moved by the community collaboration and invited all of the guests to his concert that evening where he talked with them from the stage. One guest returned to Project Connect and said to founder Ken Leslie, “Ken, John talked to us from the stage, I guess I really do matter.”
Mr. Mellencamp continues to help us expand to Matter to more of the unhoused in our nation. Since then:
- With the help of nationally recognized artists, we are working to change the perception of the “homeless” to reflect reality. Most of the unhoused in our nation are families with children. While the
“chronically homeless” are only 15% of the total, they comprise 100% of the stereotype. Instead we talk about those who have lost “domestic autonomy.” We don’t do this in the name of political correctness; this term just more accurately reflects the scope of the problem to include those doubled up and living with families or friends in our cites, suburbs and in rural areas; so-called ‘couch surfers,’ families sleeping in cars, those stuck in untenable circumstances punctuated by domestic violence, and others.
- Started in 1990, our annual Tent City brings the entire community together to explore solutions, 1 at a time, and offers medical and other services and, for some, the return to housing. We have successfully replicated this Hancock and Defiance counties as “1Matters – Project Connect.” A grant from the Toledo Community Foundation – Promedica Advocacy Fund allows the addition of three more cities this year.
- Our “Veterans Matter” program was created in February 2012 to partner with the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans and HUD-VASH vouchers to provide the rent deposits needed for many unhoused veterans wishing to take advantage of HUD-VASH program. As the HUD-VASH program caseworkers refer the screened, qualified and ready veterans and housing, this program will have a 100% success rate. How cool is that!
- Dusty Hill of ZZ Top has joined 1Matters to promote our national Veterans Matter “60,000 Soldiers” campaign.
- We are one of several global founding partners of World Homeless Action Day, held each October 10th.
- 1Matters provided start-up funding for three street papers to provide employment and autonomy: Toledo Streets and, Groundcover News in Ann Arbor, MI, and Thrive Detroit in, yep, Detroit Mi. Since our initial investment of $1000, Groundcover News has become completely self supporting with 52 trained vendors (approximately 15 active at a time) selling on average 1,856 newspapers per month. This means our $1000 investment has returned over $18,559, with at least $13,500 going directly into the pockets of people struggling with homelessness.
- We are conducting interviews with artists and celebrities for the exclusive worldwide use of street papers, adding content of value to help the vendors sell more papers.
- We also provide start up or continuation funding for Lifeline Ministries medical unit, the Food for Thought mobile pantry, as well as Toledo Help Portrait in partnership with the Lucas County Public Library, Toledo Museum of Art and others to provide free family or individual portraits to those struggling with extreme poverty. This year 7 photographers and over 70 volunteers came together to give over 300 families and individuals portraits.
- We sponsor the annual Homeless Person’s Memorial Service each year on the first day of winter.
We have done all of this as an all volunteer since 1990. Not bad for a huge group of volunteers who all just want to matter, eh? In January 2012 we hired our first employee to run Toledo Streets and the Project Connect expansion.