We have become used to the term “homeless veterans”, as we became used to other kinds of atrocious injustices.
Homeless veterans statistic is surprising, if not depressing. Out of all homeless adults, one quarter has served in armed forces previously. Thousands of people - men and women - who have served for Democracy and world peace have nowhere to return. After witnessing all the terror of they have seen on the battlefield they don’t get a decent shelter. With many ex-military members suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, they turn into fragile victims of their traumatic experience. Unable to cope with mental issues, they face economic hardships completely unprepared. Notorious mental health illiteracy of the seventies also contributed to what we witness today.
Thousands of Americans believe that this is a shame, and not a single soldier should be left behind. This has been proved by hundreds of homeless veterans programs and homeless veterans shelters appearing every year. But still, even those measures can’t help everyone. There are still hundreds of homeless veterans in need, despite the fact that homelessness among vets has been in decline for recent years. The failure of recent legislation measures contributes to more economic hardships that vets may face.
You are able to end this.
If you believe that this should not be the case and feel the urge to help thousands of homeless veterans across the states, here is a guide on how to start a non-profit homeless veterans program.
First of all, you need to familiarize yourself with the problems homeless vets face in order to determine their needs correctly. You can turn to your city's, county's or state’s homeless coalition, the police or a local VA Medical Center's homeless coordinator at a facility closest to you.
Find out the answers to the following questions:
How many homeless people are there in my city?
How many of them are veterans?
What services are already available and which are missing?
What can be crucial in fighting homelessness among vets?
Which resources are currently needed?
You need to get the necessary insight and no one has better answers than other homeless veterans programs. Homeless programs' volunteers and employees - as well as the employers - can give you a guideline to how to organize the very process of starting your own non-profit homeless veterans program.
You can’t be the only member of your organization, you will definitely need staff, active participants and “doers”. You may start a recruitment campaign - attract other activists who want to get involved with solving the problem in the long run.
MAP OUT YOUR GOALS
To mobilize donations and ensure activist involvement you need to deliver a very thorough and detailed strategy. Start with a well-defined mission plan, goals and objectives. A mission statement may seem like another old-fashioned bureaucratic hurdle, but a well-defined non-profit mission statement is a part of your brand and one of the key aspects that donors will pay attention to.
CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN
Next step is developing a business plan with a clear understanding of how much resources - whether it's people, monetary investments or time - will be required in best case scenario, average case scenario and worst case scenario.
A non-profit business plan is as crucial as any other regular business plan and its structure is pretty much the same. You will need it to have a clear understanding of your steps and so that your future partners and contributors have a clear picture of your intentions. A well-thought-out business plan is a vital part of the organizational process, helping you keep your homeless veterans organization on track.
PLAN YOUR BUDGET
The budget should be one of the main points on your agenda. Get your hands on budget planning printables to get you on the right track. A thoroughly planned non-profit budget is a key point of the financial sustainability of your program.
Don’t forget about the bylaws and program guidelines: a lot of organizations have gone through a turmoil or even were disrupted by ill-formed or non-existing bylaws and program guidelines, that led to internal tensions and further collapse. However high your aspirations are, your homeless vet program may face the same risks of disintegration.
TAKE A STEP BACK
Once you are ready, don’t forget to ask yourself and other participants the very important questions that will make your intentions clear once and for all. You have to be sure that you and your colleagues are committed enough to follow the path of homeless vet activism. Be prepared for psychological pressures and dealing with displays of unjust treatment and human pain. Behind each homeless veteran lies a very gruesome past, and you will have to share those experiences with them. If you have enough mental resources you still need to back those up with other resources, like money and legal support.
Last but not the least, make sure that your strategy meets homeless veterans needs. This may get more clear later on after you start actually working with your target audience, but again, your non-profit homeless veterans organization can work in beta-mode for some time to get feedback from your local homeless veterans.
After you are finished with the planning part, it is time to get to management part. You can proceed to form a board of directors that is diverse, well structured, knowledgeable and consists of people who are eager to involve themselves in long-term homeless veteran activism. The board of directors will later be responsible for all the decision-making and further planning and development.
As you have already understood, your greatest financial domain and resource will be fundraising, so successful grant-seeking will become one of your main skills and objectives. You need to understand the differences between restricted and unrestricted funds, as well as get a clear understanding of directors and officers liability insurance. Non-profit organizations have to keep track of all their costs and expenditures, so you have to be very transparent with how you manage the charity money. You can spare a lot of time and effort if you collect data every month for example and then issue an annual report.
Great news: since you are a homeless veterans non-profit organization, your program is eligible for tax-exempt status. A nonprofit organization is granted the status of a 501(c) organization after notifying the IRS by applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status. Take note that the process of obtaining that status is in a way lengthy (from 2 to 6 months) and requirements differ from state to state, so check the details beforehand.
As a successful project, you should develop both the internal and external connections and bonds. Participate in local homelessness and homeless vets coalitions, develop partnerships with other interested parties that can provide you with technical, human and financial resources. Support can come via other activists group, that deal with health and food issues, for example.
Last but not the least: cultivate public awareness and educate your community. Have at least two or three spokespeople who will be responsible for presenting your organisation. Spread awareness and use all your public relations potential. Your own community may not know about homeless veterans issues and it’s your duty to end this as well as potentially recruit more people that are passionate about the cause.
Just remember – you are not alone. We can end the issue of homeless vets if we work together. All you have to do educate yourself first and then help teach the others. Your actions can make a change.