Serving Those Who Served
By Joan DiPiero
Community Engagement Coordinator
For many men and women who enter the service, the military becomes a second home that provides shelter, camaraderie and security.
However, once their tour is over and they leave that home, some military veterans feel an overwhelming sense of loss and insecurity. According to recent statistics, 11% of all homeless adults in the U.S. are military veterans, some of whom are also experiencing mental illness, unemployment or substance abuse.
With a motto of “No hero left behind,” Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans (MSHV) opened its doors in 2007 to provide housing, supportive services and community outreach to homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in DuPage and nine Northern Illinois counties.
“Our mission is to help veterans and their families become self-sufficient,” explained Denny Prude, administrative coordinator for MSHV. “Veterans come to us because they know they can receive help here. The first services a vet needs are often affordable housing, health care and help finding a job.”
From its center in Wheaton, the nonprofit agency provides services that include a commissary designed to meet the clothing, household and basic needs of veterans and their families; an employment program providing veterans with the tools and resources they need to overcome employment barriers; and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), a homeless prevention and rapid re-housing program for low-income veterans and their families that provides intensive, short-term case management, housing stabilization and links to VA benefits.
Prude, who was homeless at one time, knows firsthand the disconnect some vets may feel once they leave service. He sees MSHV as a lifeline for vets who have lost their footing. Because housing is a priority, a dedicated staff of professionals, many of whom are fellow veterans, helps clients address housing needs.
“We have two affordable housing options for low-income veterans—one for single males and one for single females,” he said.
Scattered-site permanent supportive housing is available for chronically homeless veterans, and intensive case management services are included to help these veterans stabilize and maintain housing. The transitional housing program provides a home and services to male veterans suffering from chronic homelessness as well as severe mental health/substance abuse.
Support services are offered to improve the residents’ overall quality of life.
“We can provide all the services a veteran and their family need in a safe space,” Prude said.
While services are supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the DuPage Homeless Veterans Taskforce, Prude said the agency also relies on the generosity of local residents.
“We receive donations of clothing, household supplies and personal items from people in the community,” he said. “We also welcome volunteers from business and community groups, like College of DuPage, who have helped paint, clean out and decorate the group homes.”
Reach out to COD’s Community Engagement at email@example.com.