Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tent City and Veterans Matter: Deep Roots Help Fill Local Veteran Needs

In 1990, the Homeless Awareness Project, an all-volunteer organization grounded in founder Ken Leslie’s personal experience with homelessness, marked its first Tent City event. It continued as a collaboration of community leaders and local media. In 2007, Leslie was approached by a community member, which provided an “aha moment” that steered the movement from awareness towards more social change. The social change that our community is actively working towards thanks to funds raised from Tent City Weekend and the Veterans walk.  

The Homeless Awareness Project soon became 1Matters and planted its roots deep in Toledo with various organizations involved in homeless outreach. Since that chance meeting after a John Mellencamp show, 1Matters has branched out to assist in start-up funds for local programs such as Toledo Streets, Toledo Lucas County Homeless Board, Thrive Detroit, and Groundcover News in Ann Arbor. From Tent City to Veterans Matter, 1Matters has filled a need for Toledo’s homeless. This October, Tent City will be celebrating their 27th year downtown, kicking off the weekend with the Veterans Matter Walk to End Veteran Homelessness, which helps to house veterans in need.

At the beginning…

1990 seems like forever ago; Toledo has supported this project since the beginning.  Toledo Parks and Recreation have partnered with Tent City, The Toledo Mayor’s Office, the local music scene, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and the list of supporters goes on. These partnerships provide critical services like medical testing, hygiene items, housing services, veterans’ services and assistance in retrieving critical documents.

In February 2012, Leslie and Shawn Dowling, a coordinator with the local Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, with help from a ProMedica executive Barb Petee, arranged to house a veteran family through Veterans Matter. To date, 2,572 veterans and their families have been housed through the program and since 2011, Toledo’s homeless numbers have dropped from 1096 to 599.

Veterans Matter, so we walk…

As of 2016, there are 211 families living on the streets of Toledo, in cars, or in homeless shelters. Thirty of those are veterans. The goal of Tent City, to “leverage the entire community’s compassion and deliver it to those on the streets and in the shelters” is realized by raising awareness, humanizing, and advocating for homeless people while connecting those in need to places and information to change their world.

Tent City connects veterans to much-needed housing resources. The 1-Mile Walk To End Veteran Homelessness marks the start of the Tent City weekend. Money raised from registration will go towards housing costs for veterans and their families. Every dollar raised will be matched by a donation from Jordan Reses Supply and First Nation Group, who offer respiratory supplies to active-duty personnel as well as veterans. The walk will bring together supporters and show veterans and homeless attendees that they matter and that their community stands with them.

The 1-Mile Walk To End Veteran Homelessness kicks off at
Tent City at 6pm Friday, October 20.
Tent City (located at 750 Jackson St.) runs from
Friday, October 20 to Saturday, October 21.

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