In June of 2008, two men began searching for veterans in the Milwaukee, WI area who were homeless, had low incomes, or both. Their mission was to alert these individuals to the availability of, and help them apply for, any benefits they might have earned in connection with their service to our country. They found many veterans who were homeless, and also many who were in need of food and basic household items and furniture. Operating in conjunction with the Milwaukee Chapter of Veterans For Peace a Food Pantry began in June 2009 and in December of 2010, moved into the basement of St John’s Lutheran Church, 5500 W. Greenfield Ave., West Milwaukee WI 53214.The food pantry grew and other initiatives, e.g. a free community breakfast, in partnership with St. John's, as well as securing and warehousing furniture for veterans who were setting up housekeeping, began. In August of 2012, the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI) was formed and applied for tax exempt status of their own ( 45-4573280). In January 2013, a difference of opinion regarding mission, emerged within MHVI's board. Resolution was achieved with the decision that Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative would divorce themselves from the food pantry and community outreach activities and focus primarily on the furniture program which aids veterans setting up housing . Dennis Johnson, one of the two original founders and Director, would stay at the present location within St John’s Lutheran Church, 5500 W. Greenfield Ave., and continue to operate the street outreach, the food pantry and community breakfast under a new name (Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Services) and file for separate tax exempt status.
A primary activity is conducting a street outreach among Milwaukee's homeless to find veterans. After a veteran is located and trust established, an attempt is made to get the veteran into the Veterans Administration (VA) and connected to any benefits they may have earned from their service. If they are accepted into a program at the VA the stay there can range from a couple months up to a year. Because of our location (one block from the VA) we are able to maintain frequent contact and serve as a source of support and resources for the Veteran. Over the years we have become known by the Case Workers and Counselors at the Clement J. Zablocki V.A. Medical Center as an organization that is a trusted resource for helping Veterans. As a majority of the veterans in the programs at the VA have been homeless or have lost most of their possessions, we have directed our efforts at helping the veteran acquire an adequate clothing supply while at the VA and if they are able to secure a small room or apartment when discharged, we help with furnishings, household items and providing weekly groceries.
We give out over 200 food distributions in a week along with donated clothing and household items. There are over 575 individuals registered with 425 being veterans and the rest, residents of the neighborhood. Volunteers deliver over 70 boxes of food a week for veterans who, either because of age or disability are unable to get to the food pantry. MHVS is an all volunteer organization from the top to the bottom and as such can get donations to those it is intended for. Their are no high salarys or wages and we believe strongly that is how a non-profit should be.Many of the volunteers at the food pantry and breakfast are veterans that have been helped by us. They are regaining much needed self-esteem and renewing their sense of community by giving back to their fellow Veterans.
The Community Breakfast Meal, in partnership with St. John's, served its first meal August, 2011. The breakfast is served Thursday mornings in the Church basement. Between 250 to more than 300 meals a week are served, based on attendance. There is no obligation or pressure on attendees since no soliciting is allowed. Many other organizations and business’s come to offer their services free of charge to the veterans coming to the breakfast. Visiting nurses give health screenings and the local Health Department gives flu and other vaccinations. The Breakfast provides a place where the veterans can get out to meet with other Veterans, community members and reestablish a sense of community and belonging again. Veterans helping Veterans is a crucial part of everything we do along with reintegration into society.
Over the past 5+ years we have interviewed over 1600 homeless and low income veterans to whom we have given a level of personnel support and friendship that has been instrumental, for many, in breaking the cycle of homelessness. We are providing a much needed "bridge" between the VA and the community. We have the trust of our donors, who know their donations are freely passed on to veterans in need and not resold. Keeping things simple and personal with the Veterans has worked over the years and we will continue helping them with a one on one relationship.
Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Services provides the basic necessities of life such as food and clothing
Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Services not only provides the basic necessities of life such as food and clothing but also provides a chance to become a giving member of the community again.
Veterans Food Pantry each week Tuesday 8-10 AM
Breakfast Meal each week Thursday 8-10 AM
Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Services, People helping People
Our partner in helping feed our Veterans "Food for the Hungry" is hosting the 7th annual fundraiser which provides a free dinner and an afternoon out to our shut...