Ice-T, the Grammy-winning rapper, rocker, actor and filmmaker, has added his efforts to the growing roster of stars participating in the Ohio-based Veterans Matter. The nonprofit program finds housing for many of the more than 57,000 veterans living on the streets and in shelters.
“They fought for us. Now we fight for them. Veterans Matter,” said Ice-T while speaking about the campaign.
Ice-T’s public service announcements begin airing nationally last week on Cumulus Media radio and digital properties. The recording artist, whose genre-defining rap albums include the 1991 landmark LP OG Original Gangster and whose rap-metal band Body Count released its bold debut a year later, joins Kid Rock, John Mellencamp, Kix Brooks, ZZ Top's Dusty Hill, Darius Rucker, Darryl Worley, Stevie Nicks, Emerson Drive, Jennifer Nettles, Natalie Stovall and The Drive and author Mitch Albom in the effort.
“Thousands of veterans are homeless and living veterans on the streets of our nation tonight. Streets where they are being beaten, robbed, even killed. Let’s take care of our own,” said Ice-T of the Veterans Matter campaign to house veterans, in a press statement.
Veterans Matter, a national program of 1Matters, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, was started in 2012 in Toledo by Ken Leslie, himself a formerly homeless alcoholic. Leslie became aware that the primary obstacle facing many homeless vets eligible for long-term housing assistance was the lack of an average $750 rental deposit, something that's not covered by the HUD-VASH voucher assistance program.
Leslie created the Veterans Matter program to pay that deposit directly to the landlord and become part of the nationwide effort to house all homeless veterans by the end of 2015.
“We had one veteran in Texas who had been in a shelter for four years, ever since Hurricane Ike hit,” Leslie explained in the press statement. “She has issues that make working and staying focused difficult. HUD-VASH and Veterans Matter were able to get her a pillow under her head in her own bed, in her own room, in her own house. Multiply her story by a thousand more veterans and you see why we are working so hard. We can and must take care of our own.”
The effort to house homeless veterans has the national support of broadcast heavyweight Cumulus Media, where a campaign of public service announcements by the aforementioned artists encourage Americans to send donations of any amount to Veterans Matter by texting “VETS” to 41444. “Cumulus, the artists, and all of those involved with Veterans Matter, are just examples of how we, as Americans, are all just pitching in to do one small part to help house even one more veteran,” says Leslie.
Veterans Matter partners with the U.S. departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veteran Affairs to provide rental deposits to homeless veterans that qualify for voucher-assisted living but can’t fund the initial housing costs.
According to Leslie, some of the artists have also anchored fundraising in their home states, helping to raise a good share of the nearly $250,000 raised so far. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to the program, as overhead costs are donated in-kind. Leslie cites a recent email received from a VA social worker that underscores the worth of the efforts that are uniting Ice-T, his fellow supporting artists, along with Cumulus and other Americans in the campaign:
“When I told the veteran this has happened and he received his key to the apartment he became tearful and said, 'I have been homeless for several years and thought this would never happen, ever.' Later I dropped him off at the library. He called about 20 minutes later and said, “I just realized that I have a key to my own place, I know where I am going to be sleeping tonight. It is like the stress of the last several years has been lifted off my shoulders at once. Thank you so much for helping me." This IS why we do what we do. You and Veterans Matter are such a huge part of this and I thank you so much!” – Larry S., VA social worker, Bloomington, Indiana.