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ZZ Top Joins Veterans Matter “60,000 Soldiers Housed” Campaign for Homeless Veterans

August 27, 2012 by User 0 Comments

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.”

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