Veterans Matter has a black ops-like mission that’s pretty simple: Local VA Healthcare for Homeless Veterans workers identify unhoused veterans who are eligible to receive HUD-VASH vouchers that will sustain the veteran families in permanent supportive housing. These groups then fill out a form and send it into 1Matters, where we cut a check to the landlord for the first month’s rent and security deposit. Because, believe it or not, that’s the one obstacle keeping literally hundreds of veterans who’ve bravely served our country behind the enemy lines of living on the streets, in cars, and shelters. Just a one-time investment of around $750 per veteran can truly bring them back home.
The idea was formed during a conversation between 1Matters founder Ken Leslie and the director of the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program of VISN-11 (the Northwest Ohio/Southeast Michigan division of the VA), Shawn Dowling. When Shawn told Ken about the VASH vouchers and the work her team was doing, Ken asked her what was missing for more veterans to take advantage of all the vouchers available for the area. Shawn said that virtually none of the unhoused veterans had the money for the first month’s rent and security deposit (go figure). Ken asked, “That’s it? That’s all that’s in the way of more veterans getting off the streets? Let me make a few calls.”
The first call he made was to a friend, Barb Petee, telling her about the issue and asking her what ProMedica might be interested in doing. Seven days later on Valentine’s Day, the ProMedica Advocacy Fund, through the Toledo Community Foundation, granted 1Matters with the $26,250 estimated to be needed for matching to the 35 vouchers allotted to the VISN-11 area. Shawn’s team sent over the first veteran family, which was approved and the first check cut to the landlord. Within 11 days, from concept to implementation, Veterans Matter was born. In less than eight months, Shawn was announcing the time to move a veteran family into housing, from the time they were first declared eligible for the progam, had decreased from 131 days to 72 days. That means our brave men and women veterans, and fairly often their spouses and/or children, have to wait almost two months less to get home.
The program has a 100% success rate. It’s really the innovative and dedicated teams from the local VA Healthcare for Homeless Veterans programs that do the heavy lifting of finding the veterans, building a trusting relationship with them, and identifying the ones eligible for the program, then – once the veteran is housed – continuing that relationship to ensure they stay housed. 1Matters simply approves the applications the teams send in and sends out the check.
Well, that and we work hard to raise awareness and the money needed to fund the program. That’s how we first got in contact with Dusty Hill. A couple of our amazing board members are in the music industry, and one of them got ZZ Top to agree to film a PSA while they were in Detroit for a concert in June. When Dusty Hill of ZZ Top heard what the PSA was about, he and his wife immediately got excited about the program. Another strong relationship with a music legend was created, and the Hills stayed in touch with us. It wasn’t long until they were talking about starting a Veterans Matter chapter in their hometown of Houston.
Once all the pieces were in place, Dusty and his wife Charleen (a.k.a., Chuck) kicked into high gear and within three weeks, along with Kevin Maley of KO Supply, raised $40,000 of the $160,000 needed for the 200 HUD-VASH vouchers available in the Houston area. As of now, in just over one month, 10 veteran families in Houston are now home through the new program.
We’re taking care of our own, 1 by 1. Let’s keep rolling!
For complete information on how to start one in your community, visit the Veterans Matter website, veteransmatter.org.
If you are an unhoused veteran in need of help or feel you might be qualified for this program, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans: 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) Or click this link
To contact 1Matters about this program please email into at veteransmatter dot org.