John Emswiler, an Army veteran and police chief in Denison, Iowa, has helped create a non-profit dedicated to giving back to his fellow service members. Along with founder Ron Hernandez, Moving Veterans Forward aims to locate housing for homeless men and women following their time in the armed forced. Based out of Papillon, Nebraska, their charity works with the Omaha Veterans Affairs office to collect donations and provide aid throughout the region between Nebraska and Iowa.
In addition to a home, Moving Veterans Forward also collects furniture and other household items for veterans once they do find housing. The bulk of monetary donations that the organization receives goes toward transportation and storage costs for these furnishing. However, the group also compiles gift baskets stocked with essential items such as food and toiletries to ensure that veterans are set up adequately once they move into their new homes.
Given that a single radio-a-thon for Moving Veterans Forward can result in multiple trailers of donations, it’s no wonder that the organization maintains seven storage units where volunteers can pick up and drop off items.
As of August 2015, Emswiler and Hernandez — along with their team of dedicated volunteers — have coordinated enough donations to house approximately 512 veterans. However, more still needs to be done. According to The Veterans Site, about 12 percent of the homeless population are veterans, which is quite a disproportionate rate considering that veterans make up only 8 percent of the general population.
Even if you do not live in Iowa or Nebraska, there are other methods of helping service members in need. The Meals for Homeless Veterans initiative lets individuals make donations that go to providing meals for homeless veterans.