VOICES: Area groups rally to support homeless veterans

Unity of action is all too rare in our world today, but not for those in the Dayton-Springfield area dedicated to helping homeless veterans find secure shelter.

The Springfield and Dayton Exchange Clubs – two longtime service clubs – have worked to bring together VFW chapters, Masonic resources, the Boy Scouts, the Belmont Junior Naval ROTC and a host of friends and neighbors in a fund-raising effort for homeless vets in this area. They have been identified as in need first by the by Veterans Administration social workers who then ask for help from Veterans Matter This is a non-profit 501c3 associated with Exchange’s national headquarters in Toledo.

The VA can provide veterans with funds for rent, but it does not provide the initial deposit and first month’s rent which is often beyond a veteran’s reach. In Ohio the deposit voucher is $756. The Miami Valley has nine veterans in need now and Veterans Matter has been informed that the VA is processing still more.

Veterans Matter has so far helped house more than 8,000 homeless veterans across the country. Its website explains how it works:

“Veterans Matter works directly with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and local VA homeless programs to provide rental deposits and first month’s rent for chronically unhoused Veterans. Veterans Matter takes requests from VA social workers whose Veteran clients are are sitting with a newly signed lease, but lack the funds for a security deposit and first month’s rent. Once the request is approved the Veteran gets the keys. Rather than be sent back to the streets, shelter, or car, they cross the threshold into a home.”

Privacy laws restrict identification of those in need, but some recipients have allowed the VA to put their pictures and short testimonies on the Veterans Matter Facebook page. For example, this from 2016:

Phil is a formerly unhoused Navy Veteran from South Carolina: “My family and I (including my 3 daughters) have been homeless since the beginning of Covid. Last couple of years we have been in and out of hotels.. At times I felt it was too much and thought about giving up. Moving forward, your organization has meant the world to us. We are finally in our home, we are finally not homeless. We feel there is hope and we thank you all so much.”

These put a human face on what otherwise might seem as just a bureaucratic process.

What the unified activists are planning at the Dayton Masonic Center on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) starting at 2 p.m. is a type of Pinewood Derby race under the direction of Noah Zorbaugh, Cubmaster of Pack 85, Springfield, who has happily donated his time and equipment. Each car will represent one of the services – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space and Coast Guard. Buyers of tickets – $10 each or three for $25 – will mark their tickets for the service or services they prefer. A series of heats will be run with donated prizes for each winner. The final winner of all the races will receive what is termed the 50-50 raffle.

Tickets may be obtained by the technologically literate using a scan code on the flyers advertising the event or visiting this site: SpringfieldExchangeClub.org/raffle. Paper tickets are also available from members of the Dayton and Springfield Exchange Clubs or participating VFW chapters. There undoubtedly will be other questions, and these may be directed to Springfield Exchange’s Carol Suddath at 937-505-9030 or carolsuddath@ameritech.net.

William (Bill) H. Wild is a retired columnist and editor for numerous newspapers throughout his career, most notably as the editorial page editor of the Journal Herald in Dayton and associate editor for the Dayton Daily News.

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