As we continue to wind down our nation’s military conflicts abroad, more and more veterans will need housing and job training. Addressing this need will require the combined efforts of government at every level as well as the private sector. Local communities throughout Michigan estimate there are more than 11,000 persons who are homeless on any given night – approximately 10% of those are veterans. Calling veteran homelessness ‘a national disgrace,’ Secretary Donovan told the National Alliance to End Homelessness last November, “We cannot let these forgotten heroes slip through the cracks. We’ve got to do everything we can to lift them up and help them rejoin the very communities they gave so much to protect.”
One community rising to the challenge of caring for and connecting veterans to vital support services and job training is the City of Taylor, Michigan. Using HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the City decided to work with as many local companies and organizations to seek out veterans in need. I recently attended one such event exemplifying how the City seeks to care for those selfless enough to give to their nation.
The Taylor Veteran Home Program selected 5-year Marine Corp veteran Christopher Holcomb and his family to have their prayers answered. Chris served in Haiti and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Since his honorable discharge, Chris has struggled to find work and to house his wife and 3-year old daughter. Wishing to assist Chris, who was born and raised in Taylor, to readjust to civilian life and provide him a stable future, the Taylor Veteran Home Program the City of Taylor reached out to local partners such as The Home Depot Foundation and The 313 Project to completely rehabilitate a vacant home with new electrical, plumbing, heating, drywall, paint, fixtures, appliances, cabinetry, and much more.
Not satisfied with simply providing a rehabilitated home, Taylor also reached out to Helmets to Hard Hats, an organization which connects veterans with building and construction careers, who then accepted Chris into its program where he will ultimately become a certified carpenter. Helmets to Hard Hats donated all the tools and equipment necessary for Chris’ training. Enchanted Makeovers designed and furnished the interior of the newly remodeled home, making it move-in-ready. Meanwhile, the Schoolcraft Community College District has relieved every parent’s worry and provided Chris’ daughter with a four-year scholarship which, 15 years from now, will open doors of opportunity that otherwise may have remained closed. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Chris said: “It’s amazing to have the community you grew up in reach out and help you, this is truly amazing. Thank you!”
As a fellow veteran, I understand how difficult the transition to civilian life can be. Having become aware of the increased risk of unemployment and homelessness our veteran’s face, HUD and the VA have made efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, often through programs such as NSP and through the efforts of local communities such as Taylor. These aggressive goals are achievable only through steadfast determination and by reaching out to each of our troubled veterans – caring for them one at a time if need be. Watch an awesome YouTube video about the Holcomb’s new home!
Daniel J. Huyck works in the Detroit Field Office.