In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama issued a challenge to mayors around the country: End Veteran Homelessness. Mayor Heartwell of Grand Rapids signed on for that challenge, and all of Kent County is on board for the effort. The work first began with creating a true accounting. Previous estimates of Veterans had our local numbers much lower than we knew was true. As the first comprehensive list was compiled, the number grew to 292!
Next, began the work of housing these Veterans. Led by Community Rebuilders, a group of community agencies began meeting regularly to create plans and track the progress. Volunteers of America, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Salvation Army were among the top collaborators.
To date, we have housed a total of 138 Veterans from the list have been housed. New Veterans are always being identified, but the goal is to house more than are added to the list. We need to house 22 Veterans a month to get us to our goal- ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2016. We know that it can be done—but this goal will take everyone in the community working together.
We need service providers to add in extra resources, landlords and property managers to help us find apartments and houses to become homes, and a community to support these individuals and families as they join new neighborhoods. To learn how you can help visit the Community Rebuilders website.