Every night, an estimated 50,000 veterans are living on the streets. Each with a different story, they all shared a common pledge: to support and defend this country. Their service is done. Now, it’s the Elks’ turn to serve.
In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission has pledged to help end veteran homelessness, and ensure that every veteran has the safe, stable home they deserve. To accomplish this goal, we need your help!
Here are the 5 components of the Welcome Home program.
Welcome Home Kits
Most veterans move into their homes with nothing. Elks can help veterans establish their homes by building Welcome Home Kits. Generally, this kit would include some small furniture, kitchenware, and cleaning supplies. Items can be new or used, donated or purchased. The ENVSC has funds available to help with this.
- Get started by holding a supply drive to collect commonly needed items like bathroom towels, toiletries, paper products, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.
- Know anyone who is moving? Collect furniture, dishes and other home goods they don’t need any more.
- Beds are an especially big need for veterans moving into new homes, as donations generally can’t be accepted. Hold a fundraiser to buy beds for newly housed veterans.
- Need help with funding the rest? Our Welcome Home Kit Reimbursement Form assists Lodges with costs up to $200. Access it here!
- Not sure how to get started? Read this how-to guide put together by Hopkins Lodge.
Adopt a Homeless Veteran
Once a veteran is home, it can be difficult to change habits and transition from a life on the street. Veterans may need assistance with independent living and home care skills such as budgeting, opening bank accounts, cooking, cleaning, job seeking and assistance dealing with landlords. Having an Elk as an advocate and friend can help these veterans to thrive in their new home. Adopt a newly housed veteran.
- Include the Lodge phone number and contact information for the Lodge in your Welcome Home Kit.
- Does your Lodge volunteer at a local Stand Down? Connect with veterans there, and let them know they can call your Lodge for assistance or support. Not sure if there are any Stand Downs, job fairs and support events for homeless veterans coming up in your area? Check this website: www.va.gov/homeless/events.asp
- Follow up with veterans the Lodge assists through this program. Visit them at home. Give them a call every few weeks. Invite them to join in when the Elks are assisting other veterans.
- Visit our Adopt-a-Veteran webpage for more ideas.
Elks Housing Navigators
Elks members interested in providing at least 15 hours of service a month to homeless veterans seeking assistance at VA facilities can sign up to be Elks Housing Navigators. These volunteers will act as mentors and friends to help homeless veterans tackle their challenges, find a home and become integrated into the community.
- Sign up to volunteer at your local VA. Attend orientation, learn the ropes and volunteer regularly. Ask specifically about opportunities to serve homeless veterans. And, email us at Vets@elks.org.
- Consider your skills. Do you know local business owners? Help identify jobs for veterans to apply for. Are you good at writing resumes? Hold a workshop, or work one-on-one with job searchers. Have a knack for rallying volunteers? Gather friends together, borrow a truck and help veterans move into their new homes on weekends.
- Are you well-connected in the community? Help veterans who’ve recently moved in get to know the local landscape. Introduce them to friends, tell them about local events, and invite them to the Lodge as a guest.
- Need help locating VA facilities? Check out this list of Community Resource & Referral Centers, www.va.gov/HOMELESS/crrc-list.asp. CRRCs are VA centers aimed at providing veterans who are homeless and at risk of homelessness with one-stop access to community-based, multiagency services to promote permanent housing, health and mental health care, career development and access to VA and non-VA benefits.
- Sign up as a Housing Navigator today by emailing Vets@elks.org.
If you have a few spare hours a week, you can make a difference. View this video from the VA for inspiration.
Be a local advocate.
- Encourage business owners to hire veterans in need.
- Help find affordable housing for veterans making the transition. Talk to landlords in your community about renting to veterans.
- Talk about the issue at your Lodge using this slideshow.
- Partner with other groups in your area.
- Share the video at right with friends. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.
Increased Focus on 8 cities
The VA has asked the Elks to focus their efforts in and around the following 8 cities, which they’ve identified as the areas of highest need. The following two additional programs will be available to Lodges in and surrounding these areas: Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Loma Linda; San Francisco; Seattle; and Miami-Dade.
Welcome Home Grants
In addition to Freedom Grants, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission is funding additional grants in the areas around the 8 target cities identified above. These grants of up to $4,500 will be available specifically to assist veterans who are homeless, or at risk of being so. Applications become available online August 1, and are due by March 31, 2017. Here are the requirements:
- Elk involvement is required.
- Grant applications must focus on direct service to veterans in need.
- A complete application and budget must be submitted and approved before funds are mailed.
- After project is complete, Lodges must complete a Final Report Form, including documentation of all funds spent.
- More information, including application questions, can be found on this one-page flyer.
Elks Emergency Assistance Program
Listen to social workers from the Veterans Administration rave about the Elks' emergency assistance program in this short video.
Spread the word about the Elks Veterans Emergency Assistance Program. Veterans registered with and receiving services from the Department of Veterans Affairs can apply for one-time monetary assistance to prevent homelessness or secure a home. Forms must be signed by the veteran and by a VA employee.
- All assistance requests must be submitted through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and signed by a VA employee. Individual requests cannot be processed at this time. This form is only available to VA facilities in the 8 targeted areas..
Rally your Lodge members to get involved! Together, we can end veteran homelessness.
For further information, contact the Elks National Veterans Service Commission office at Vets@elks.org, or at 773-755-4736. Or, visit www.va.gov/homeless/.
Questions? Email Vets@elks.org or call 773/755-4736.
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