Last Friday, I visited a Philadelphia homeless shelter for veterans. In the back of my car was a sizable donation from a local business; an in-kind donation of cotton towels.
Over lunch two weeks ago, a Navy veteran introduced me to this nonprofit. We were actually meeting to discuss how we could collaborate on our common mission of encouraging women to enter STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) educational and career paths. When I first heard of this homeless vets organization, I was happy to hear about a service nonprofit benefiting veterans. Then the gravity of their mission sunk in, the way it does for everyone I tell this story to. Wow! There are homeless veterans?
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2013, there were almost 58,000 veterans without a permanent residence on any given night (1). Homeless vets compose about 12% of the adult homeless population in the United States. Sixty percent of these vets are in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens run by various organizations. The other 40% are unsheltered, living on the streets. The statistics have shown a significant improvement. Since 2009, the number of unsheltered vets decreased 30 percent. Overall, veteran homelessness decreased by 24 percent.
On the drive to pick up the donation that morning, I had heard a report on public radio claiming that socks were the number one thing requested by shelters on behalf of their residents. The director came out into the street to meet me as I was leaving, giving me the opportunity to ask him how I could help him more. The thing they needed the most was soap, personal care items and cleaning supplies. I was expecting a hospital or dorm like facility as a homeless shelter, but instead they had a big, antique house. The staff and residents were so grateful to get a donation. Everyone came out to shake my hand and thank me. My curb-side view, left me wondering how they managed to squeeze 43 beds inside.
Homelessness is a new area for me. My charitable work typically involves education, STEM education, critically ill children and sports organizations. Two days later, I found myself sitting at an outdoor sporting event with thousands of participants and spectators. Who do I manage to meet but a woman who works for the very organization that led me to donate I to the homeless shelter. Fate has somehow delivered me to become involved.
I will attend the USO gala in a few weeks. In the meantime, I have some feelers out to those who can help make this soap fundraiser happen.
hakrabarti, Amit. The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. N.p.: n.p., n.d. The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress: Part 1. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.