When Veterans move into stable housing after years of homelessness, many lack the resources to also purchase basic household items that they’ll need in their new homes. To address this need, schools and student councils across the country competed in the annual End Veteran Homelessness Challenge. The End Veteran Homelessness Challenge raises money and collects household essential items for Veterans who are exiting homelessness. VA’s Homeless Programs Office, in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Student Council Association (ASCA), organized the challenge.
The challenge asked student councils in five states to help homeless Veterans by collecting clothing, everyday household goods and money for security deposits. The combined value of cash and goods collected by the five participating schools exceeded $5,000.
VA and its partners congratulate Kaʻōhao School in Hawaii for winning the challenge. Kaʻōhao students collected items valued at more than $3,000. Most of the donations they received were personal hygiene items, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo — the personal care essentials that many people take for granted. Other items collected included toilet paper, laundry detergent, socks, pants, backpacks, sweaters, and ponchos.
“We are extremely proud of our Kaʻōhao School and student council for leading the charge to help homeless Veteran here in Hawaii and across the nation,” said Dr. Winston Sakurai, Kaʻōhao School Director. “Kaʻōhao School is located in a community with a large military population and this is our opportunity to give back and bring awareness by supporting our outstanding Veterans.”
Five schools participated in the challenge and helped make a difference for Veterans seeking safe, stable housing:
- Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, Fla.
- Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, Calif.
- Kaʻōhao School in Kailua, Hawaii
- Oliver McCracken Middle School in Skokie, Ill.
- Rocky River Elementary School in Concord, N.C.
“I think it is important to help [Veterans] because they have served our county. A lot of people in our school are really excited and passionate about helping end homelessness,” said Gemma Canevari, sixth grader and Kaʻōhao School student body president. “Our student council made announcements, counted the items and issued a challenge to see which classes could collect every item on the list and who could collect the most items.”
Other highlights of the challenge included Rocky River Elementary School, which raised $500 and mailed more than 700 holiday cards to current service members. Additionally, Oliver McCracken Middle School raised $106 to purchase restaurant gift cards for Veterans.
“Teaching our students empathy is foundational because we all have feelings, are human and need to care for one another,” said Espie Chapman, Kaʻōhao School Student Council Advisor. “The Homeless Veterans Challenge was an honor to be a part of to help those who made our lives better today.”
Since 2010, more than 800,000 Veterans and their family members have avoided homelessness or moved into permanent housing with help from VA programs and targeted housing vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The End Veteran Homelessness Challenge is an example of how individuals of all ages can support the important work underway by VA and its partners to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans.
- Check out naesp.org to learn more about the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Student Council Association.
- Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
- Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center or urge them to call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).