Homelessness can happen to anyone, anywhere, depending on a variety of circumstances and risk factors. But veterans, who often find the transition back to civilian life difficult, seem particularly susceptible. According to the 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, 39,471 veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2016, representing just over nine percent of homeless adults. Three percent of those veterans included families with children.
Meet Betty, a U.S. Army veteran and 34-year-old mother of three. Following three years of service, Betty was living with her children and increasingly verbally abusive boyfriend. Although she wanted to find safer housing for her kids, she had poor credit and felt she had no options. Things changed for the better when she learned about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program administered by the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans (MSHV). Within a month, MSHV helped her find an apartment in her kids’ school district and stable employment as a hairstylist.
In addition to providing permanent housing for veterans, the MSHV also offers assistance such as career assessments, job placement, temporary housing, rental payments, counseling and more. Because 40 percent of the organization’s annual fund is financed by private contributions, much of its success lies in the generous financial donations it receives — like the recent $5,000 check from SMACNA Greater Chicago, one of the largest and most influential sheet metal contracting organizations in the country.
“I think it’s important to give back to the community,” said SMACNA Greater Chicago president Ken Wiesbrook. “SMART 265 (the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 265 in Carol Stream, Illinois) has done some work for the MSHV, as well as a number of our business agents and contractors, so it seemed like a natural fit for us.”
“We are extremely grateful for their donation, which was a pretty substantial amount for us,” said Yvonne MacDonald-Hames, director of development for the MSHV. “We definitely work hard at fundraising and establishing relationships with donors like Ken and SMACNA Greater Chicago, and are delighted to receive their donation.”
Wiesbrook presented the association’s donation to MacDonald-Hames during the SMACNA Greater Chicago regular membership meeting in March. The funds will be used to serve nearly 400 veteran households with housing, employment, case management and support services throughout the year.
“Some of our programs are more government-funded than others. For example, with the Freedom Commissary, we receive no government grants — that’s all private contributions,” MacDonald-Hames said. “This money is going to go into our general operating fund and will go toward those programs where we don’t receive the government money.”
“Although there are countless worthy nonprofits we could have chosen, we wanted to support an organization that makes a profound difference in an individual’s life,” Wiesbrook said. “We’re talking about our nation’s heroes — it’s hard not to get behind a cause that supports all they’ve done for our country and our freedom!”
Wiesbrook, whose term as association president began in January 2017, hopes that SMACNA Greater Chicago continues its partnership with the MSHV throughout his tenure on the executive leadership team.