Veterans Day is our opportunity to thank and honor all the men and women who have served our country and made sacrifices to preserve liberty. Events, speeches, educational activities and prayers fill the day — but many people want to do more. Through Military Outreach USA’s 11-11-11 Program, they can both honor all Veterans and extend a hand to those who are transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing.

Program participants — local schools, houses of worship, businesses and volunteer and community groups — ask each of their students, members or employees to donate 11 personal care or household cleaning items. Then, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Military Outreach or one of its partners picks up these items at a designated collection point and takes them to the nearest VA medical center or community-based outpatient clinic. When these items are needed, VA caseworkers will distribute them to Veterans approved for permanent housing.

The White House and VA have made ending Veteran homelessness a top priority. VA and its partners have made significant progress in achieving this important national goal with Veteran homelessness declining by nearly 50 percent since 2010.   When Veterans transition into permanent housing from homelessness, however, many have nothing except the clothes on their backs.  They have no furniture, cookware, bedding, linens, cleaning supplies or other items that are required to set up a household.

The 11-11-11 Program fills this gap by providing move-in essentials. These small personal care and household cleaning items can make a big difference to Veterans and their families. Unopened packages of toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, paper goods, shampoo, soap, dish and bath towels, sponges and mops, household cleaning supplies, and other products can provide a sense of normalcy and help Veterans more easily readjust to life.

In the Midwest, Joe Palmer, Military Outreach’s executive director, has built tight-knit relationships with schools, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and VA medical centers — creating a strong force for helping Veterans and their families. The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago has firsthand experience working with Military Outreach and the 11-11-11 Program. “When we contact Joe with a list of needed items to help Veterans set up a household, Joe delivers,” said Eugene Herskovic, a Jesse Brown case manager.

“Last year, Joe mobilized all the aldermen in Chicago’s 50 wards to collect more than $500,000 worth of personal care and household items,” said Herskovic. “Joe lined up support from numerous voluntary organizations, while the Jesse Brown Homeless Program staff and voluntary services’ members stored and distributed move-in kits, also assembled by Joe, and gave them to HUD-VASH (Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing program) staff to deliver to Veterans. Our relationship with Military Outreach and Joe, along with the generous support of our staff, lets us do and accomplish more to help Veterans achieve housing stability than if we try to go it alone.”

Through VA’s partnership with groups like Military Outreach, many more Veterans and their families are making a smooth transition into permanent housing. Participation in the 11-11-11 Program will help them continue moving toward self-sufficiency. There is no better way to honor Veterans’ service and sacrifice this Veterans Day.

To learn more about the 11-11-11 Program, please contact Military Outreach at

Image of ShahanAnn Shahan started her career with the Veterans Health Administration in 1983 as a staff nurse on an inpatient psychiatric unit in Boise, Idaho. She has gained 34 years of experience through her professional journey and extensive work in the inpatient setting as well as outpatient and has worked her way up from direct provision of Veteran care to administrative oversight of local programs from the National level.  Shahan has hands-on working knowledge of every program under the homeless umbrella as well as experience gained working for years in an outpatient Post Traumatic Stress Disorder program. Prior to her current positon with VA Central Office as Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Administration Supportive Housing Regional Coordinator, she was the network homeless coordinator for Veterans Independent Service Network 20 and homeless coordinator for Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, Washington.

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Published on Oct. 27, 2016

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