VA knows that it cannot end Veteran homelessness alone. We need the help of dedicated partners to provide Veterans with the opportunities, services, goods and encouragement that they need to secure and maintain permanent housing.
In short, we need partners like Chris Gardner and Military Outreach USA, both of whom were honored last week by VA Secretary Bob McDonald in a special ceremony at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center (JBVAMC) in Chicago.
Gardner is a formerly homeless Navy Veteran whose incredible life story you may know from the film “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Since struggling with homelessness, he’s built a successful career as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. At the June 15 ceremony, Gardner was honored for his tireless advocacy on behalf of his fellow Veterans—for speaking out about the need to end Veteran homelessness and giving his time, energy and resources in support of the cause.
The second honoree is Military Outreach USA, a national faith-based nonprofit headquartered in the Chicago area. Led by its executive director Joe Palmer, who attended Wednesday’s ceremony on his organization’s behalf, Military Outreach USA created the Veterans Exiting Homelessness program, a partnership with VA to collect essential, everyday items that Veterans can use to outfit their living spaces, such as pots and pans and cleaning products. It also established the Beds for Vets program, a collaboration with VA to raise funds to purchase mattresses and box springs for Veterans moving to permanent housing.
We can never thank our allies enough for their outstanding efforts to help us end Veteran homelessness, but events like this are a start.
Lina Satele, MBA, is a public affairs officer at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. She is an Army Veteran and has more than 15 years of communications experience, including at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.