CHICAGO, Dec. 19, 2012 (NBCNews.com) — A Safe Haven Foundation’s Inaugural Holiday Celebration Supporting Homeless Veterans served as the first fundraiser of its kind in Chicago. Veteran advocates were honored and A Safe Haven and the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration used the venue to announce its partnership with the United States Veterans Administration. Those honored included some of Chicago’s most prominent Veteran leaders and advocates, including Rear Admiral James M. Galloway, M.D., FACP, FACC, Assistant Surgeon General, Regional Health Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Howard O. Robinson, Senior Enlisted Leader and State Command Sergeant Major for the Illinois National Guard, for their outstanding leadership in the community. Over 300 attendees gathered at the Union League Club on December 10th.
On behalf of the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Director Michael Anaya and Neli Vazquez-Rowland, President of A Safe Haven Foundation, jointly announced their partnership to launch the first veterans resource center of its type outside of the VA. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for mid January 2013. As of December 1st 2012, A Safe Haven has housed over 900 Veterans in their transitional, per diem and affordable housing this year alone.
Edgar Amina, a 24-year veteran, presented co-founders Neli Vazquez-Rowland and Brian Rowland with the 82nd squadron’s American flag used during Operation Enduring Freedom. “I feel honored that you guys honor us as veterans,” says Edgar Amina. “Organizations like this help us heal, by honoring us and helping us get back in the real world, and we thank you for it.”
“I would like to thank Neli, Brian, and their staff on behalf of our veterans for their commitment in providing quality services to our veterans,” says Howard O. Robinson, Senior Enlisted Leader and State Command Sergeant Major for the Illinois National Guard. “It is truly a testament to the selfless service and sacrifices our service members make in the defense of our great nation.”
CBS news anchor, Rob Johnson, emceed the event. The Committee to Support Homeless Veterans who coordinated the event was co-chaired by veteran advocates Michael Favia, President of the John Marshall Law School Alumni Association, Peter Amarantos, President of Arborwood, Inc., Brian Clauss, veteran and Director of the Veterans Legal Support Center at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, and Tregg Duerson, son of former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson and advocate for Veteran Suicide Prevention.
With national statistics showing that veterans comprise 30% of the homeless population, A Safe Haven’s holiday fundraiser secured funds to facilitate transportation needs for veterans entering into or currently part of the organization’s programs.
“What ever you give to our effort can not be too much because every one of us in this room has been touched by a veteran… and they give the most, they give themselves,” says A Safe Haven board member, Abe Thompson.
One of the most significant donations at the event was the donation of a van for Veterans by the JP Morgan bank among other generous donations by those who attended. Transportation for veterans to get to and from job interviews, education, hospital appointments, etc. is one of the most unfunded expenses. Donations are still coming into A Safe Haven Foundation, specifically earmarked for homeless veterans. Organization leadership encourages everyone to visit the website and consider donating, volunteering, or making A Safe Haven’s Veterans Program a benefactor for a special event in 2013. Photos from the veterans’ event are now available in the gallery section on the A Safe Haven website www.ASafeHaven.org .
A Safe Haven helps people aspire, transform, and sustain their lives from homelessness and provides the tools for each individual to overcome the root causes of homelessness through a holistic, scalable model. For more information on A Safe Haven and programs available for the homeless, underserved, and veterans, visitwww.asafehaven.org .