On February 6, 2012 during street outreach with the VA, Shawn Dowling, coordinator with the local Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program, told founder Ken Leslie that a deposit was all that was preventing two of his local chronically homeless veteran friends from getting into the ready HUD-VASH housing, with 33 more vouchers for veterans in the pipeline.
He asked what the veterans did when they did not have the deposits and she said some of the veterans had to go to the churches and VFW’s and beg for it.
That broke Ken’s heart so that night he created Veterans Matter to simply eliminate that last barrier and push these veterans over the threshold into ready housing by covering that deposit paid straight to the landlord.
The next morning Ken called Barb Petee, an executive at Promedica Health System, to find the $26,250 pilot funding to cover the vouchers from the Toledo Community Foundation’s Promedica Advocacy Fund.
Seven days later, on Valentines Day, 5:36 p.m., Barb called with full pilot funding. Three days later, the first waiting veteran family was housed out of a family shelter. 11 days from idea, to funding, to execution. When needed, the VA called Ken at his executive search firm, and he wrote the checks to landlords as needed.
Then It Grew
During the taping of a Veterans Matter public service announcement, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top asked Ken to expand the program to Houston, Texas – which Dusty would help Ken get it started. So Ken provided the start up funding to create an online cloud-based system to allow veterans in Houston or any funded area of operation to get housed. To date that Texas group has raised over $750,000 housed over 1,400 Texas veterans.
John Mellencamp did the same for Indiana. Mitch Albom, along with money raised by Katy Perry, Kid Rock, and First Nation Group made housing Michigan veterans possible, with continuing support. The Veterans Matter pilot program then grew and has been well-documented in the press.
In 2015 Ken closed his Executive Search firm to help house the veterans on the streets full-time. Over 5,000 have now been housed.