Local nonprofit helps to furnish the homes of formerly homeless veterans


Jose Cardenas: THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. UNITED FOR CHANGE IS AN ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO HELPING STRUGGLING VETERANS. ONE OF THEIR PROGRAMS IS THE VETERANS FURNITURE CENTER WHICH PROVIDES FURNITURE TO VETERANS WHO ARE TRANSITIONING TO PERMANENT HOUSING AFTER BEING HOMELESS. HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE PROGRAM IS BILL CONNER, VICE PRESIDENT FOR UNITED FOR CHANGE AND BOB ALFRED AN ARMY VETERAN AND A BOARD MEMBER FOR UNITED FOR CHANGE. GENTLEMEN, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE." BILL, GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAM AND THEN WE HAVE A VIDEO WE WILL SHOW THAT WILL GIVE PEOPLE A GRAPHIC SENSE FOR IT.

Bill Conner: THE VETERAN'S FURNITURE CENTER BASICALLY IS SET-UP IN A WAREHOUSE IN CENTRAL PHOENIX WHERE WE STORE DONATED FURNITURE AT THIS TIME. WE GET IN TAKE REFERRALS EVERY DAY FROM THE VA AND A COUPLE OTHER SOCIAL AGENCIES, U.S. VETS, CVI AND THE MANA HOUSE. THESE ARE INTAKE FORMS FOR VETERANS WHO THEY FOUND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING THROUGH THE HUD VASH PROGRAM. THE VA PUTS THEM IN A HOUSING USUALLY A SMALL APARTMENT AND THAT IS ALL THEY HAVE. THEY DON'T HAVE ANYTHING THEY’RE COMING OUT OF HOMELESSNESS SO WE PRESIDE THEM, EACH FRIDAY WE GO OUT AND DELIVER FURNITURE, HOUSEHOLD GOODS, ANYTHING THEY NEED TO MAKE THEMSELVES A HOME IN THAT APARTMENT AND HELP THEM TRANSITION TO SOCIETY.

Jose Cardenas: WE HAVE A VIDEO THAT REALLY SHOWS EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. WE WILL RUN IT RIGHT NOW.

Jose Cardenas: Bob, GIVE ME THE HISTORY OF THE PROGRAMS. I UNDERSTAND IT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. NOW, THE PROGRAM HAS BEEN RESTRICTED TO FOCUS ON HOMELESS VETERANS BEFORE ANY VETERAN WOULD QUALIFY.

Bob Alford: IT IS TRUE. IT WAS ORIGINALLY STARTED BY FOLKS OTHER THAN OURSELVES. THEY OFFER FURNITURE TO VETERANS WHO HAD SIMPLY TO SHOW THEY HAD RECENTLY MOVED TO TOWN AND NEEDED FURNITURE AND THEY COULD GET THE FURNITURE. WE TOOK OVER THE OPERATION A FEW YEARS AGO AND SAW A NEED AMONG OUR HOMELESS VETERANS. WE NEEDED ALL THE CAPACITY WE HAD TO REALLY HELP THEM. THAT WAS WHERE WE COULD DO THE MOST GOOD. WE RESTRICTED THE PROGRAM SO THAT THE APPLICANTS COME FROM THE VA OR ANOTHER SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANIZATION. AND WE KNOW THEY HAVE BEEN HOMELESS, GONE THROUGH REHABILITATION AND ARE TRANSITIONING INTO NEW HOMES.

Jose Cardenas: THERE IS A TIME PERIOD? WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE REFERRAL?

Bob Alford: THAT IS TRUE. WE TRY TO SERVICE THEM AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE ONCE WE FIND OUT THAT THEY’VE OBTAINED THE HOUSING. WE ARE REFERRED BY THEIR CASEWORKER AND KNOW WHEN THAT IS AND AS SOON AS WE CAN WE’LL PROVIDE THE FURNITURE. WE OFTEN GO IN AND FIND THEM SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR WITH NOTHING IN THE HOUSE. THE VA HAS DONE A WONDERFUL JOB OF HELPING THEM AND DOES EVERYTHING THEY FOR THEM AND PUTS THEM INTO THE SUBSIDIZED HOUSING BUT THEY DON'T HAVE A WAY TO GIVE THEM FURNITURES AND HOUSEHOLD GOODS. THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE PLATES AND KNIVES AND FORKS OR SPOONS AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

Jose Cardenas: I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THE VA TAKES CARE OF ALL ASPECT BUT ARE HOLES AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM.

Bill Conner: LIKE BOB SAID, THE VA IS DOING A MARVELOUS JOB GETTING HOUSING FOR THE VETS BECAUSE THEY ARE USUALLY SUBSIDIZED HOUSING WHICH IS HARD TO COME BY SOMETIMES. BUT THAT IS AS FAR AS IT GOING. THEY CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE VET THROUGH THE CASE MANAGERS AND THEIR PROGRAMS AS FAR AS THEIR WELL BEING AND THEIR HEALTH, BUT DON'T PROVIDE THE NECESSITIES OF EVERYDAY LIFE. WE PROVIDE THE FURNITURE, YOU KNOW, THE UTENSILS LIKE BOB WAS SAYING. WE HAD A VET RECENTLY WHO CAME TO US AND HE NEEDED TO GET A HOT PLATE BECAUSE HIS APARTMENT DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A STOVE AND HE COULD MOVE IN WITHOUT A COOKING APPARATUS. IT IS ESSENTIAL THINGS THEY NEED. IT HELPS THEM TRANSITION INTO SOCIETY AND FEEL LIKE THEY FIT IN AGAIN AFTER ALL THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH. IT HAS BEEN PROVEN THROUGH SOME OF THE AGENCIES WE WORK WITH THAT FURNISHING THE APARTMENTS HELPS THEM FROM GOING BACK TO THE STREETS.

Jose Cardenas: SO BOB, THE BOARD AS I UNDESTAND IS ALL VOLUNTEERS AND ALL VETERANS THEMSELVES. WHAT INVOLVEMENT DOES THE BOARD HAVE ITSELF HAVE IN TERMS OF THE DELIVERY OF THE FURNITURE AND THE GATHERING OF IT?

Bob Alford: THE BOARD PRIMARY LEADS THE DELIVERY EFFORT. IT IS BASICALLY A HANDS ON EFFORT. NOW WE GET HELP FROM OTHER VOLUNTEER MOSTLY VETERANS, SOME ACTIVE SERVICE PERSONAL HAVE BEEN HELPING US IN THE PAST, AND WE HAVE SOME FOLKS WHO JUST WANT TO HELP VETERANS AND VOLUNTEER THEIR TIME TO COME OUT AND WORK IN THE WAREHOUSE OR MAKE DELIVERIES OR DO FURNITURE PICKUPS. IT IS THE BOARD OR MEMBERS OF THE BOARD WHO LEAD THE CHARGE.

Jose Cardenas: AND HOW BIG OF A LEAD IS THER OUT THERE? WHAT IS THE SIZE OF THE HOMELESS VETERAN POPULATION?

Bob Alford: WE SERVED OVER 400 LAST YEAR. WE HAVE AND IN MY OPINION WE’RE NOT COMPLETELY MEETING THE NEED, THERES MORE. IF WE HAD MORE CAPACITY WE COULD SERVICE MORE PEOPLE. THE VA KNOWS WHAT ARE CAPACITY IS AND FEEDS US THE VETS. BUT THERE IS MORE WORK TO BE DONE.

Jose Cardenas: BILL, IN TERMS OF THE NEED AS I UNDERSTAND IT THE NUMBER OF HOMELESS VETERANS HAD BEEN GOING DOWN SINCE 2010 BUT LAST YEAR THERE WAS AN INCREASE.

Bill Conner: THAT IS RIGHT SINCE 2010 IT’S GONE DOWN ALMOST 45% BUT FOR SOME REASON THIS YEAR IT HAS SPIKED A LITTLE BIT. PHOENIX IS REPORTING ABOUT 945 HOMELESS VETERANS IN THIS AREA. WE ARE GETTING RIGHT NOW AN AVERAGE OF AT LEAST 8-10 NEW REFERRALS EACH WEEK FROM THE VA AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS AND THESE ALL LIKE, BOB SAID, VETTED AND HOMELESS AND COMING OFF THE STREETS. SO, IT’S A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN I THINK IS REPORTED SOMETIMES. WE ARE IN A POSITION NOW WHERE WE GO OUT THREE DAYS A WEEK TO PICK UP DONATED FURNITURE FROM THROUGHOUT THE VALLEY. BUT WE CAN'T KEEP UP WITH THE DEMAND. AT THAT LEVEL, WE ARE ONLY ABLE TO SERVICE MAYBE 6-8 VETERANS A WEEK. AND THE NUMBER OF NEW REFERRALS WE ARE GETTING EACH WEEK IS EXCEEDING THAT. IT IS BECOMING A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN IT WAS A YEAR AGO DEFINITELY.

Jose Cardenas: BOB, LAST QUESTION. THE NATURE OF THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE VETERANS YOU ARE SEEING. WE HAVE DONE SHOWS ABOUT VETERANS HOMELESSNESS AND AT LEAST IN THE PAST THERE HAVE BEEN A SIZABLE PERCENTAGE THAT ARE ACTUALLY VIETNAM ERA VETS. ARE YOU SEEING MORE IRAQ WAR VETS AND AFGHANISTAN?



Bob Alford: YES, WE ARE. ALTHOUGH WE DO STILL SEE VIETNAM VETERANS. VIETNAM VETERANS BEING HELPED AND BROUGHT BACK STILL. BUT WE ARE SEEING A LOT OF YOUNGER FOLKS, TOO. SOME OF THEM WITH YOUNG FAMILIES THAT HAVE BEEN ON THE STREET. THAT IS JUST HEARTBREAKING. WE DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HELP THEM AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Jose Cardenas: SO THERE IS A BIG NEED, HOPEFULLY PEOPLE KNOW TO CONTACT YOU IF THEY WANT TO MAKE DONATIONS.

Bill Conner: THEY CAN CONTACT US ON OUR WEBSITE. WWW.VETERANSFURNITURECENTER.ORG. OR THEY CAN CALL US AT 602-303-6112. WE DO FURNITURE PICKUPS WEDNESDAYS, THURSDAYS AND FRIDAYS THROUGHOUT THE VALLEY. WE’RE TRYING TO TRANSITION TO A MODLE WHERE WE CAN ACTUALLY TRANSITION TO PURCHASING FURNITURE BECAUSE A LOT OF THE TIMES THE STUFF WE GET IS SO LARGE THAT WE CAN’T EVEN FIT IT IN THE APARTMENT.

Jose Cardenas: SO THERE IS ROOM TO DEVELOP IN MANY AREAS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE PROGRAM.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs works to house veterans who are homeless, one local group aims to help with the next step: furnishing their living spaces.

“We often go into these homes and find them sleeping on the floor,” United for Change’s Bob Alford told Arizona Horizon. According to Aford, while the VA does an excellent job providing housing assistance, almost as necessary is to furnish the home with a furniture, kitchen appliances and other household necessities.

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In this segment:

Bill Conner: United for Change
Bob Alford: United for Change

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