Veterans Community Project brings home veterans in need

View of the Veterans Community Project Village. // Photo by Matt Burasco.

Recently, Veterans Community Project (VCP) had the honor of protecting the home of a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, Tom, with six combat medals to his name. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Tom’s business closed and he soon found himself unable to pay his bills for the first time in his life. He was overwhelmed with stress and feared losing his home. Many people associate VCP with their little village of homes, but a big part of their job is to help a veteran get back on their feet when life has thrown them dangerously out of balance. After meeting Tom, one of the case managers arranged to pay his rent, coordinated resources with another agency to help him with his utility bills, and had him registered with the VA to begin with. to connect it to its services. Tom has been able to return to work and his case manager is optimistic that he will be fine. “I doubt he still needs us, but he knows we’re here.”

Veterans Community Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded by a group of veterans in Kansas City, Missouri, who decided to stand in the gaps of a broken system that left too many their siblings behind them. They aspire to use Kansas City as a model for similar success in cities across the United States. Their long-term goal: to end veteran homelessness nationwide.

Leo and Petey

Leo and Petey. // Photo courtesy of the Veterans Community Project.

VCP provides essential support services to veterans through the Veterans Awareness Center and VCP Village. The Veterans Awareness Center (Troost) is a walk-in center that helps all veterans navigate the VA and its benefits, identification services, mental and physical health referrals, financial counseling and employment assistance, among other services. The VCP Village (89th Street) is an innovative community of 49 small homes for homeless veterans. A tiny house provides new furniture, appliances, household items, bedding, food, and utilities. All of this is free for veterans. Most importantly, VCP Village provides refuge and the emotional space needed for the Veteran and VCP’s specially trained Veteran Support Services team to deeply address the underlying causes of their homelessness.

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Case managers Wes Williams and Erin Ressegieu visit Kyndra, a Navy veteran, in the VCP village green space. // Photo courtesy of the Veterans Community Project

Within days of the citywide COVID-19 shutdown, VCP coordinated resources to provide meals to homeless and at-risk individuals at partner agencies across the metro area. The heroes of Cerner/Company Kitchen and Operation BBQ Relief cooked 45,330 meals, greatly relieving the fear of those suffering from hunger. Food was graciously provided by partners such as Sysco, Loffreto Fresh Foods, Roma Bakery, Belfonte, Smithfield and others. VCP also helped organize a citywide hub in Hope Faith where multiple agencies pooled resources and served together to provide food, health screenings and case management. This activity helped prevent the spread of the virus to one of our city’s most vulnerable populations.

On May 4, VCP launched the COVID Response Program for Stabilization (CORPS). CORPS provides financial assistance and case management to veterans who are experiencing significant financial setback due to the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They prioritize helping those who have lost their main/only income and are at risk of becoming homeless. Most veterans only need one “refueling” to carry them through the end of a period of leave or the start of a new job. For those who need additional support, their case management team tailors a program that offers job training, financial literacy classes, or coordinated help from our trusted partner agencies. Once each veteran stabilizes, they track their progress over the next 12 months.

Turned Thomas

Thomas, an Army veteran, moving into his new home in VCP Village. // Photo courtesy of the Veterans Community Project.

Due to this pandemic, VCP expects to receive more than four times more requests for emergency assistance than last year. VCP passionately believes that anyone who has taken an oath to protect our homes should not be without it. Given the current economic climate, many veterans are at risk of becoming homeless in the coming months. If you feel called to donate or are interested in volunteering in the future, please visit their website at VeteransCommunityProject.Org.

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