Homeless and veteran should not be in the same sentence.
These are the wise words of Trish Jenner, the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s volunteer coordinator.
Trish is absolutely right. No veteran should struggle with homelessness.
But in truth, no American should.
Unfortunately, we all know that homelessness does exist, for far too many individuals in this country.
The good news is that there are organizations working hard to put these mothers and fathers, sons and daughters into homes. Nonprofits like Almost Home, Habitat for Humanity, the Kathy Weinman Center and Humanitri do a great job of giving these individuals a home and a better future.
But here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we understand that if someone has been homeless, or living in a temporary shelter, he or she probably won’t have many belongings. They won’t have a closet full of clothes, much-needed toiletries, or a pantry full of food to stock their new home or apartment.
Even if individuals are not homeless, but have been living in the overcrowded homes of relatives or participating in a live-in treatment program, they often are not able to purchase the items they need to get a fresh start.
So while a new tenant being served by an organization like Places on Page or the Veterans Administration Medical Center should be able to rejoice in finally finding a good place to live, they still have to worry about buying the items they need to survive.
That’s where the Foodbank can help.
We offer the Transitional Housing Program, a one-time offering of food and household items that help families and individuals make the transition from a shelter or the streets to a new home.
The Transitional Housing Program is one of only two direct service programs operated by the Foodbank – the rural Food Fair Program is the other. We consider the THP a “direct service,” because we distribute food and other products to an individual or family in need for their use only.
And over time, we have come to realize just how important these items are to a family or individual trying to establish roots in a new home.
Occasionally, a client will come to the Foodbank with her agency caseworker to pick up her family’s THP food shipment. It is remarkable to see the joy on their faces when she realizes the “food basket” is a pallet full of a month’s worth of food and boxes of household necessities.
I believe, because of the tears I have witnessed at these times, that it may just be at this exact moment, that it really sinks in for such a client that she has acquired not just a home, but a home in which she will be able to feed her family.
That’s how we know that this program is making a difference.
Over the past 15 months, Julia Day, Places for People’s development director and master scrounger, has made many referrals for her new residents to the Foodbank’s Transitional Housing Program.
And she’s not alone.
We are ready at any time to send a shipment to the Veterans Administration Medical Center’s Clemmie Cunningham or Matt Vaporean, or the Veterans Administration Hope Recovery Center’s Joanne Joseph and her staff.
Local social service agencies served by this program include:
- Almost Home
- Habitat For Humanity
- Kathy Weinman Center
- Preferred Health Care
- Queen of Peace Center (Catholic Charities Housing)
- Salvation Army
- St. Louis Crisis Nursery
- St. Martha’s Hall (Catholic Charities Housing)
- Veterans Administration Hope Recovery Center
- Veterans Administration Medical Center
With the help of all these agencies, the Foodbank gets to play a small role in giving a fresh start to homeless veterans, families in shelters and individuals in a myriad of unfortunate situations. We are proud to do our part.