On February 6, 2012, during street outreach with the VA, Shawn Dowling, coordinator with the Ann Arbor 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, he called a local foundation to find the $26,250 pilot funding to cover the deposits for those veterans.
Seven days later, on Valentine’s Day, 5:36 p.m., the grant was approved, and three days later, the first waiting veteran family was housed out of a family shelter. 11 days from idea, to funding, to execution.
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 get 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 now houses veterans in half of the country. You can help house some of veterans in the other half.
As a formerly homeless alcoholic and addict, founder Ken Leslie lived on the streets. After becoming a professional comedian, in the late 80’s he started seeing more people on the streets. Having been there himself, when he learned 60% were children, he felt called to help.
In 1990 he got sober and turned his life around. He founded a successful executive search firm which over the next two decades allowed him to become a philanthropist and create and fund programs to help the homeless in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. His program continues today.