‘Make Camo Your Cause’: U.S.VETS leaders say goal is to ‘put ourselves out of business’
LOS ANGELES - The organization U.S.VETS seeks to bring visibility and awareness to the struggle of homeless veterans with the mission to end veteran homelessness in the United States, and its CEO intimately understands the struggle of many who have served — he’s a veteran himself.
Launched in 1993, U.S.VETS is the largest nonprofit organization with boots on the ground to combat America’s veteran homeless crisis head-on. Its comprehensive approach provides housing, counseling, career and supportive services to help U.S. veterans rebuild and thrive.
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CEO and president of U.S.VETS Steve Peck said his interest in getting involved with veteran homelessness came after serving in the war himself.
Make Camo Your Cause campaign. (Credit: U.S.VETS)
"I was a Marine in Vietnam in 1969 and 70 and that is obviously a significant experience in anyone’s life," Peck told FOX Television Stations. "I was quite disturbed by what I saw and did over there."
While working on documentary films on the subject, he learned that a third of homeless men at the time were veterans.
"It really is a way that I can reconcile everything that has happened to me," Peck shared. "I wasn’t ever homeless. But, I certainly feel a lot of compassion for veterans who come back who have difficulty finding their way, and what we do at U.S.VETS is give them one chance, two chances, three chances, however many chances they need."
Today in the U.S., nearly 38,000 veterans experience homelessness, accounting for approximately 9% of all homeless adults, according to U.S.VETS.
Shalimar Cabrera, the executive director of U.S.VETS, is a granddaughter of two World War II veterans.
"The original intention for myself was really to make a difference and make impact," Cabrera said of getting involved in the organization 19 years ago. "No one who has served in our country’s military should have to find themselves homeless and sleeping on the streets that they fought to defend. It’s a tragedy in our country."
Male veterans are 1.5 times more likely to become homeless than someone who is a non-veteran, and for females, the chance increases almost four-fold, Cabrera noted.
The organization has 32 sites across 11 regional locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Texas, and Washington, D.C. and offers temporary and permanent housing solutions and comprehensive services to veterans and their families nationwide.
"If we are going to end homelessness, we are going to have to prevent veterans from becoming homeless in the first place," Peck continued.
The organization provides everything from outreach on the streets, housing, life skills training, employment assistance, counseling and case management.
Cabrera said the organization strives to wrap support around homeless veterans so ultimately "they can regain their independence"
U.S.VETS launched its campaign called "Make Camo Your Cause" to establish the camouflage print as the official symbol to honor veterans.
FOX Corporation and its employees are working with U.S.VETS to support their "Make Camo Your Cause" campaign by spreading awareness around the campaign and wearing camo to support the cause on Veterans Day.
"We have the vision of connecting camo to what we do, so whenever you see camo one day, we hope people connect that to supporting and ending veteran homelessness," Cabrera said.
In order to bring visibility and awareness to the campaign, FOX is asking businesses to purchase apparel from U.S.VETS online shop and wear camo with U.S.VETS this Veterans Day and post on social media using #HONORUSVETS.
U.S.VETS is also looking for volunteers in the fight against veteran homelessness.
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The national nonprofit relies on corporate and community support to help reach its goal through partnerships including direct financial contributions, employee giving and matching gifts, campaigns, grants and employee volunteer engagement.
In addition, employers can "hire a vet" through the U.S.VETS Career Network, which connects professional and student veterans with lasting careers they love.
Donations to the organization can also be made on its website.
"We’re hoping to put ourselves out of business," Cabrera said. "We’re hoping that someday this tragedy doesn’t exist anymore."
"But, our work remains unfinished until there are no more homeless veterans on the streets," Cabrera continued.
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