Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 24, 2013

Helping homeless vets

VFW Post 1152 announces commitment.

As residents reflect on the tireless work of the nation’s military veterans on Memorial Day, a group of Howard County vets is concentrating on veterans without a home.

In its continued effort to support local veterans, Kokomo’s VFW Post 1152, in coordination with the Family Service Association, began a  one-year fundraising campaign this month to benefit Kokomo’s homeless veterans housing project. The groups will continue coordinating multiple fundraising events in support of this project throughout the year leading up to Military Appreciation Week in November.

The project called “Jackson Street Commons” at 322 E. Jackson St. will have 27 single-bed units, a community room, a large kitchen and office space for supporting services for homeless military veterans in Howard and surrounding counties.

“We still have veterans living on the streets, sleeping under bridges and in tents,” said Ken Fisher, commander of the VFW.

In addition to providing critical housing needs, specific support services will also be made available to them.

Fisher said they are asking different organizations in four-county area to come up with their own event to raise donations for the project.

“These guys are basically coming in with nothing but a sleeping bag,” said Fisher of homeless veterans.

“Our goal is to find organizations, businesses or individuals, people or businesses, to donate money for naming rights for each room.”

Fisher explained it will cost $3,000 per room. The first $3,000 check came from Solidarity Federal Credit Union, which will have its name on one of the apartments.

“I was a little shocked it didn’t happen last year,” Fisher said of raising the necessary funds.

“This thing was promised a year ago. We should have these guys off the streets and get them the care they need. I don’t want to see another winter go by without them having a place to go.”

Construction on a $3.3 million housing complex to provide permanent, supportive housing for homeless veterans in the area was expected to begin last year, but due to lack of funding and increased construction costs, the project was pushed back, said Judy Dennis, executive director of the Family Service Association of Howard County.

“Our first construction meeting is tomorrow and they should start construction next week,” Dennis said Thursday.

After that, Dennis said the agency has 300 days to complete the project.

“We’re excited about it. We’re hoping it will be done close to the end of the year,” she said. “We would love to open it by Veteran’s Day.”

Dennis said there are more than 140 homeless veterans in the county, which reportedly has the highest per capita number of veterans in the state. She noted a study recently revealed one-third of homeless people are veterans.

The housing development will be only the second of its kind in the state, she added.

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