Vets Helping Vets Revamps Infrastructure, Image
You may have seen them on the sidewalks of the Northway Mall, Burlington Coat Factory, and Fred Meyer asking for money to support Alaska's homeless veterans.
But after experiencing some setbacks involving accusations of embezzlement, Vets Helping Vets is now working double time to help those who need it the most.
There are claims that Vets Helping Vets founder Jerry Butler disappeared last year with the charity's cash.
According to Calista Anderson, the organization’s current president, Butler “took an awful lot of money out.” Now she wants to focus on improving the organization’s public image.
That meant cleaning house and opening up their books so homeless vets wouldn't go without. The idea behind Vets Helping Vets is to give Alaska's homeless veterans support from those who have been there.
The organization provides everything from toothbrushes to transportation. By connecting homeless vets with jobs, food, clothing, and housing, Anderson says they are making a difference. “We're able to put a couple of different guys in housing. We got apartments for them—they are no longer living in tents,” she says.
“Everything was in default. We almost lost the building,” Anderson says. A lack of money left a stack of bills unpaid, rent backed up, and threatened putting people back on the streets.
“Our homeless veterans would have been homeless all over again,” says Anderson.
The alleged incident prompted a complete makeover from uniforms and money management, to selecting new board members. Vets Helping Vets also has a new license as a nonprofit for protection against theft.
To move beyond the controversy of the past, Vets Helping Vets has an open-door policy that includes opening their books for anyone who wants to see it.
“We call it a hand up, not a hand out,” Anderson says. “We are vets helping vets, but you still have to help yourself.”
Anderson says hundreds of people walk through their doors every month, and they have a lot of success coordinating vets with housing and jobs.