One of the best things about doing this kind of work is the people you get to do it with – People who CARE about others. Selfless people united for a cause. We have previously documented the efforts of the team in Operation Houston.
We told you about Dusty & Chuck Hill who begat Kevin Maley, who begat Sheri Henderson, who begat David Rein Henderson, who begat Jacob Walsh, who begat Chris Hernandez. (And a host of others, but for today’s post, this is the string.)
Below is the video to give people a sense of what Veterans Matter is…. and it was the string above who all made it happen. David Rein Henderson is the one who asked “Do you want us to do the video?” He enlisted his video guru Jacob Walsh to handle the video and David used his expertise - 3D graphics - to create the 3D United States opening of the piece. David and Jacob, along with Chris, shot the interviews with Dusty and I during my trip to Houston last month.
Jacob did a great job editing and what you see here is the labor of love, love for our veterans, and love for those on the streets. Thank you all for your compassion. And thank you all for sharing your talent!
Left to Right: Gary Fruchtman, Jeri Gates, Ken Leslie, Kirk Wilkington, Chuck Hill, Dusty Hill, Buddy Johnson, Sheri Henderson, Dave Henderson, and Kevin Maley.
Just a quick update on Operation Houston… what an incredible group! Hosted by Dusty and Chuck Hill, and Kevin Maley, we had the organizational meeting for the chapter last Monday. Operation Houston. This is pretty exciting… they are all in, and Chuck Hill has taken the lead to help us define the role of the chapters. We got to meet Jeri Gates as well, the Houston VA VASH manager who is our go-to person to get it done. Things are going so well, fundraising is on hold to get up to speed on the actual needs to match the chapter. The discussion also led to conversation about expanding to cover all of Texas. The group is meeting again, and taking a tour of the local VA. We will keep you posted.
Now back in Toledo, Operation Hometown (for SE Michigan/NW Ohio), we’ve been cutting checks like crazy. (We have a goal of one hour from receiving the referral to mailing the check, with a 98% performance rate.) In just the last two days, we’ve approved four Veteran families in this area for the Veterans Matter program. That makes 54 veteran families housed in just under one year since inception. WOW!
Let’s keep rolling – let’s keep housing our heroes!
There is so much going on that we have not had time to post and update you…
Remarkable amount of progress:
Referrals from the Houston VA are continuing. Since 12/3 we have now housed 11 veteran families – 11 adults and 7 children.
Dusty and Chuck Hill are convening the formative meeting of the Houston Veterans Matter board on February 5th. This is the group that is going to raise the remaining $100k.
Helping Dusty is this incredible guy named Kevin Maley, CEO of KO Supply. He is a sheer force of compassion himself and is bringing an incredible amount resources together to help not only Houston, but our national effort as well.
One of those assets is his personal assistant, Sheri Henderson who he has temporarily donated to us to help on the admin side. She was re-working our referral form and she suggested we revisit the idea of an online referral system. Son of a gun, with the help of the Toledo (Dena & Shawn) and Houston (Geri) VASH managers we figured a way to address the privacy issue making the creation of a national online referral system allowable under VA guidelines.
Then steps in Main Sequence Technologies. Last Tuesday, the 15th, we contacted the owners and software gurus Marty and Mike Snyder who have been Ken’s day job (CEO of a headhunting firm since 1994) recruiting software vendor since helping them to define and launch their product back in 1996. Their system is a global online ASP/cloud-based contact management software. We wondered if they would/could help us re-purpose and customize their software to our precise needs, for free, and oh yah, at black-ops speed. Of course they said “hell yes,” and we estimated it would take 2 – 4 weeks. They committed one of their finest, Andrew Rothman, to help us. Did we say black-ops? Starting 1/15. by FRIDAY 2/18 he had a working demo model which we paced over the weekend. Revisions and aesthetics happened 2/21 an it was released the same day. Seven days. This whole thing is black ops, baby.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, through this cool guy in Washington named Dr. Josh Bamberger with USICH, this cool lady named Anne Miskey, executive director for Funders Together to End Homelessnesscontacted us. Funders Together coordinates 70 or so local and national foundations to impact the unhoused. This is a group that actually does stuff, rather than more studies, plans, etc. They had been doing this work already in the same space we are, so they called to see if there were ways we can coordinate. We spent the better part of an afternoon on the phone and identified numerous, pretty powerful synergies. She is now going to her board (a pretty impressive lot) and other resources to see if she can help raise some operations funds so we can launch this missile from pilot to national program. Given the resources, national scale could be deployed in less than 1 week. Black Ops, baby!
Anne is also sitting on a steering committee for a group staging a national concert to benefit unhoused veterans. She had the organizer, John McGah, give me a call last Friday. Again, great guy. He has been doing work with the unhoused for a very long time as well. We chatted for an hour and we are certain we have a great fit as far as mission and goals. Stay tuned, their could be a national rock concert helping us make the point, “Veterans Matter – We MUST take care of our own!” Black ops, Baby!
We know not everyone who reads this celebrates Christmas, but many do consider this time of year a season for miracles. Or, at least we want to. We want to believe that there’s still something that can go right, be wonderful, fulfill dreams – even when life has beaten us up and told us otherwise. That describes most of us, and most of the people we help 1 at a time.
But we are honored to say that we KNOW miracles still happen. They happen all the time, in little ways and large ways. And they don’t just happen in December, but all throughout the year. Many times, we get to be a part of miracles happening for our unhoused friends, even if it’s “just” hearing the stories from our amazing partner organizations, like Cherry Street Mission Ministries or Food For Thought. Sometimes, we get to be an active part of the miracle.
One of the most recent miracles happened Christmas Eve. It was simply this: We got to approve two more veteran families, one of them a dad and his two children, for the rent deposit they needed. They got news of housing in time for Christmas! Veterans Matter has dispersed the funds already, and we expect they could be moved in just in time to start 2013 with their own roof over their heads.
The great thing about these kinds of miracles? We get to celebrate them, too – and we hope you do as well. We couldn’t be doing this without your support!
But they didn’t stop there. While backstage with the veteran families, the band autographed brand-new instruments and posed with them and the veterans, then handed over the instruments and told us to auction them off to help MORE veteran families. They’re starting a Veterans Matter chapter in Houston, and wanted to help raise the $160,000 needed to provide the deposits for the 200 VASH vouchers available for Houston-area veteran families. So they gave us these absolutely beautiful instruments to auction off to raise the funds and the awareness. (Actually, before the auction even started, they’ve already raised $16,000 of that to house six veteran families!)
The auction went live yesterday, and it’s already seen some crazy activity. As of this writing, the set of ZZ Top’s instruments is up to $1,775 in less than 24 hours. Today, we got word that Dusty wants to call and congratulate the winning bidder when the auction’s over. That’s how passionate he is about this cause – that he wants to see this through personally and share his appreciation. Wow!
So far this week… we’ve received $17,000 to launch it – and launch it we have!
So far this week… we’ve already cut three rent deposit checks for three Houston area veteran families! Four people, including one child, will now have a home for the holidays. How awesome is that?!
Those checks go directly to the landlords. The families chose their housing based on utilizing HUD’s VASH voucher program through the VA. They will receive case management and support through the VA to help them maintain their housing. 100% of the funds raised on behalf of Veterans Matter go directly to seeing veteran families housed. The $17,000 already raised will help over 20 veteran families get off the streets and out of shelters. We have a couple really cool CEO types in Houston helping to raise the rest through a Veterans Matter Houston board. Dusty is convening the formation meeting at his house later this month.
Veterans Matter! Right? Damn straight! We MUST take care of our own.
Just wanted to quickly update the status of Veterans Matter.
Since Promedica approved full funding of the pilot program on Valentine’s Day, 27 unhoused veteran families (34 adults, 11 children) have been housed at an average now of $573.86.
At the press conference with ZZ Top, Shawn Dowling of our local VA’s Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program said Veterans Matter has reduced the amount of time a veteran family is unhoused from an average of 132 days to 71 days.
Speaking of ZZ Top, when they were in Toledo for their concert earlier this month we took Dusty Hill and tour manager Pablo Gamboa to meet some of the formerly unhoused veteran families helped by Veterans Matter. After hearing some of the stories, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Dusty and Pablo were moved enough they gave 30 tickets to the show for the veterans at the clinic.
Dusty and “Chuck” (Charlene) Hill, and Pablo were presented Proclamations from the Mayor’s office thanking them for their support of Veterans Matter.
Dusty, Chuck and the band are forming a Veterans Matter chapter in Houston and want to raise $160,000 to help house Houston Veterans. Several fundraising plans are being initiated, including auctioning off “the band” in time for Christmas. Seriously, Dusty and Billy signed new Fenders and Frank signed a drum head which we will auction off as a package.
Much more going on, but we wanted to give you an update. Onward – Homeward!
First, what’s most important… Getting veterans and their families into housing! Since February 14th, 2012, there are
25 veteran families in permanent supportive housing, in
12 cities, in
2 states, for a total of
30 people, of which
9 are children no longer staying in shelters or trying to survive on the streets!
Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. Photo: Levi Pervin, courtesy of ZZ Top
Our “spokesband” ZZ Top has been a phenomenal supporter of Veterans Matter and the 60,000 Soldiers Housed campaign. Most recently, bassist Dusty Hill has done an interview with the Toledo Free Press Star. His passion for this cause shone through – he started the interview talking about the campaign. Thanks, Dusty!
Speaking of ZZ Top, they’ve generously donated a total of 8 tickets to their November 1st show at Toledo’s Stranahan Theater PLUS matching backstage passes. 1Matters.org, the nonprofit which started and runs the Veterans Matter program, has used these gifts to raise money to continue our mission. As prize packages for an auction, a raffle, and top fundraiser for the 1Mile Matters walk, ZZ Top’s donation has helped raise over $18,600! Congratulations to the winners of these prize packages – they not only get to enjoy the show, they get to meet Dusty Hill, Billy F Gibbons and Frank Beard!
Stay tuned for more… there’s always something waiting in the wings as we move onward and homeward for our veterans!
Today we are launching our national “Veterans Matter – 60,000 Soldiers Housed” campaign. To help promote the campaign, ZZ Top has signed on as our first spokes-peeps. Last month in Detroit we shot a psa released today. shooting the psa for us last month. Besides the psa, they will be promoting the campaign during their upcoming tour starting next month to support their new album “La Futura,” enlisting other musician friends to help with the cause a number of ways, promoting it on their websites and social media, and a couple other little things we are chit-chatting about.
Veterans issues have been something close for the band, and especially close to the hearts of Dusty Hill and his wife, Chuck. (Chuck? Yes, seriously. She rocks! To hear her story add Dusty Hill on Facebook.) They both are “fighting mad” to hear so many of our veterans are on the streets and in the shelters, AND there is something we can do about it to get one more unhoused veteran off the streets, TODAY!
Below is the video and press release which we are releasing to the mainstream press. The band’s publicist Bob Merlis will be releasing it to the music industry.
We want to move fast and get the word out FAST! There are 60,000, yes, 60-freaking-thousand men and women who put our lives on the line who are now on our streets. FAST!
We love giving credit where credit is due. This psa is is the product of a great team of volunteer project.
First props of course go to the band for their gracious southern hospitality. Dusty for shooting with us, Billy for agreeing to help us in the first place, and Frank for letting us use his dressing room to shoot the psa.
Chuck Hill for her enthusiasm and commitment!
Tour manager Pablo Gamboa was remarkably helpful and kind getting all the arrangements made onsite.
The remarkable video production team from Materni Media, Christie andMatt Materni. Great, expert, flawless team of shooters. Did i mention fun too? Thank you for giving up a day of making money to help those on the streets. Check out their great work here.
My wife Norma, the best teleprompter babe in the business.
Bob Merlis, who believes in the cause enough to make all kinds of magic happen!
And of course special props to Barb Petee, and the Promedica Advocacy Fund/Toledo Community Foundation for “Hey Barb, I got an idea called Veterans Matter….” “Hell yah we will fund that!” And she did, in seven days.
Thank you all for giving a rip about those on the streets. , onward – homeward…… ken
ZZ Top Joins Veterans Matter “60,000 Soldiers Housed” Campaign for Homeless Veterans
New Program Has Housed 20 Homeless Veteran Families in 6 Months
Toledo, OH – “It’s really disturbing that nowadays it has somehow become acceptable for American soldiers damaged by the physical or mental trauma of war to be abandoned, forgotten, and left homeless on the streets of our nation. On those streets they have been beaten, robbed and some even killed. If this kind of thing happened behind enemy lines we’d be outraged, says ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill. “Veterans matter and we should and must take care of our own,” notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
The federal government has documented over 60,000 homeless veterans abandoned on the streets and in the shelters of our nation. ZZ Top is helping do something about it by signing on to support and promote “Veterans Matter,” a rapid response pilot program created by 1Matters.org, which has already helped house 20 homeless veteran families in its first six months. 1Matters is a nonprofit, based in Toledo, Ohio, that has the support of singer John Mellencamp and others associated with the music industry.
Veterans Matter was conceived by Ken Leslie, a former homeless person who is founder of 1Matters.org following a conversation with the local coordinator for Healthcare for Homeless Veterans.
“The government has a really effective HUD and VA partnered program (HUD-VASH) which provides housing, case management and other services to unhoused veterans,” Leslie said. “We recognized a major and usually insurmountable barrier to access this housing is the fact that unhoused veterans often do not have jobs or the income to cover the required deposits and first month rent.”
The Veterans Matter pilot program was conceived in February to provide those upfront costs. Because the only access to the program is through the local HUD-VASH case manager, every veteran referred to Veterans Matter has already been pre-screened and preapproved by the VA for the housing voucher, case management, and selected property.
“All we do is write the check to the landlord. This simplicity allows 100% of the money raised to actually help the veteran families. This also guarantees a 100% success rate in getting those veterans housed,” Leslie explained.
Billy F Gibbons, singer and guitarist for ZZ Top, commented, “When we heard about this we were most impressed. We appreciate that this program is it is not one of those feel-good virtual-fundraising-under-veterans-names-programs. They get in, get the job done, and leave.”
Gibbons is referring the program’s public design. As allocations are only matched to the available HUD-VASH vouchers, the amount needed to be raised for each area is limited to the number of vouchers available for that region.
For example for FY 2012, Bridgeport, CT has only ten vouchers allocated. If the average first month/deposit is $750 per voucher, only $7,500 needs to be raised to match those vouchers and get ten veteran families housed.
On the high end is Los Angeles CA, with 800 vouchers. Based on the same example, only $600,000 would be needed to match the local vouchers.
“In my 23 years of working on the issue of homelessness, I have seen groups exploit the unhoused for financial gain. With 100% of the funds going to help the unhoused veteran family and no overhead or operating cost other than writing a check, this program is completely transparent. This not meant to be a massive program; it is, rather, an aggregation of small programs in communities in all 50 states working to get unhoused veterans and their families off the streets and into housing one at a time,” Leslie said.
The local pilot program estimated 35 VASH vouchers for the region and upfront costs of $750 so only $26,250 needed to be raised. The local Promedica Advocacy Fund immediately funded the program. Leslie points out the writing and mailing of 35 checks over a year does not justify staff costs or overhead. The program has already helped 20 veteran families in 11 cities and two states. Four of the veterans have been women, and nearly half have come from the recent OIF/OEF.
Representing the band, Dusty Hill has taped a public service announcement which can be viewed on the Veterans Matter website (veteransmatter.org). The band intends to help promote the “60,000 Soldiers Housed” campaign and Veterans Matter program during their upcoming tour to support the release of LA FUTURA, their first studio album in nine years.
Frank Beard, drummer for the band, said, “We’re happy to do our part to get the word out. We urge our musician friends to help us promote the ‘60,000 Soldiers Housed’ campaign and rally Americans to help get every unhoused veteran housed in their own community. How do you get 60,000 unhoused soldiers off the streets? One at a time.”
For more information contact Bob Merlis at 323.962.6887 or bobmerlis @bobmerlis.com
To view the psa visit VeteransMatter.org
About ZZ Top
Now in its 42nd year of performing and recording with the same line-up, ZZ Top has been recognized as one of the most iconic forces in American rock for just as long. They’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones), have been named Official Heroes of the State of Texas and were recipients the Texas Medal of Arts Award last year and are set to receive the 2012 Classic Rock (UK) Living Legend Award. Their new album, LA FUTURA, will be released on September 11.
1Matters began in 1990 in Toledo, Ohio, as the Homeless Awareness Project (HAP) by formerly homeless-turned-entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist Ken Leslie. The all-volunteer organization grew to become the national advocacy group 1Matters.org after a 2007 visit by singer John Mellencamp to their annual Project Connect Community Collaboration event.
1Matters is a non-profit 501c3 which creates real time collaborative solutions to move unhoused individuals and families into domestic autonomy. Their Project Connect has been expanded to four additional cities; the group has provided start up funding of three street papers in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo. The most powerful example of this collaboration leverage is the Veterans Matter program uniting HUD, the Veterans Administration, and all Americans.
For more info about 1Matters, please visit 1matters.org.
About Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV)
The HCHV Outreach Worker is the gateway to begin the homeless Veteran’s recovery. HCHV Outreach Workers are clinically trained mental health providers who determine what assistance and interventions are most appropriate to meet the Veteran’s unique needs.
If the Veteran is eligible, the Outreach Worker facilitates referrals for physical and mental health evaluations and/or to programs are the most appropriate for the Veteran, including the HUD-VASH program.
About HUD – VASH
The HUD-VASH Program combines the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans and their families with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at its medical centers and in the community.
HUD-VASH assists homeless veterans and their families afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing through the distribution of housing vouchers.