By Beth Grady
It’s hard to believe that those who put themselves on the front lines and risk their lives for our country during their US military service are over 50 more likely to become homeless and to experience homelessness longer than non-veterans. Yet of the 23 million military veterans in the United States, 529,000 to 840,000 are homeless at some time during the year. In Arizona, there are approximately 1,036 homeless and jobless veterans. These somber statistics show the harsh realities that those in the military face upon discharge due lack of family and support networks, shortage of affordable housing, PTSD, and other barriers.
One local Valley non-profit seeks to change all of this. Project Veteran’s Pride (PVP) is 501( c )3 organization founded by military veterans in 2011 with the mission to end veteran homelessness by creating a well-balanced environment that will restore the pride and dignity of those who served our country so that they can return as self-sufficient and productive members of society. Through the James Walton Home (JWH), PVP provides homeless veterans with a comprehensive 30/60/90 program that gives them a “hand up” to do just that.
Opened in 2013, The James Walton Home is a transitional home that can house up to twenty homeless veterans per day in a safe, home-like environment where they complete the innovative PVP program. Residents are referred to JWH through the VA after a thorough vetting process. New residents are greeted with a warm handshake or hug, then given a day’s rest to decompress. After this, they will use their time at the JWH to get needed medical treatment through the VA, obtain job training, and seek permanent employment and housing. Residents are also given household responsibilities which empowers them with a sense of duty and responsibility. Their stay at the James Walton Home will last up to 90 days.
“Our residents really do enjoy their responsibilities,” says Dr. Christeen Verchot, retired United States Air Force LTC, President of Project Veteran’s Pride, and Executive Director of the James Walton Home. “Their time of military service was led by structure and accountability, and they’re able regain that here, which will prepare them for success after their stay at The James Walton Home.”
And the program WORKS. Since the first resident arrived on Veteran’s Day in 2013, over 650 now-formerly-homeless veterans have graduated the program. 91 have continued to live off the street. 79 are employed, while others have returned to living with their families and restoring those relationships.
Dr. Verchot and her team stay in touch with their former residents, ensuring that they’ll always have a network to turn to. On June 21, they will reunite with ten James Walton Home graduates at the Dressing Vets for Success, the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year. Locally-owned Ceiphers Clothing hosts and produces the event, which showcases graduates of the James Walton Home modeling “Job Ready” Ceiphers Clothing looks. The event will also feature live entertainment, a raffle and live auction, and more. All proceeds will benefit PVP. Tickets are currently on sale, and sponsorship and raffle donation opportunities are also available.
From the fashion fundraiser to bus passes to toilet paper to monetary donations, there are many ways you can help PVP carry out their mission and directly make a difference in a homeless veteran’s life. For more information and ways to help Project Veteran’s Pride, visit www.pvpjwh.org. For more information about Dressing Vets for Success and to purchase tickets, www.ceiphersclothing.com/philantropy.
Javier Soliz – Corporal (Pictured)
• Successfully found housing after the 90-day program
• Received his food handler license while at Project Veteran’s Pride
“I’ve been homeless for 4 years. Going from that…to going to having a full-time job and my own apartment…it means the world to me. I would literally do anything for them in this house. This house means a lot me. It’s literally, compared to all the other places I’ve been to, it’s like a 5-star resort. There’s no other place like it.”