From World War II and the Vietnam War to the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/ OIF), America’s veterans have courageously fought for the nation’s freedom. They bravely served the country, and yet, sometimes they struggle to find a place to lay their head down at night.
With Veterans making up 11% of the adult homeless population, they’re feeling the impact of today’s lack of affordable housing, livable income and access to healthcare. They’re also facing these difficult issues as they often have to navigate the lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse.
Working to change this narrative, the mortgage industry constantly strives to give back and serve the veterans who so bravely served them first. The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that veteran homelessness has decreased by 5.4% since 2017.
“We owe it to our veterans to make certain they have a place to call home,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “We’ve made great strides in our efforts to end veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure those who wore our nation’s uniform have access to stable housing.”
The fight to end veteran homelessness has reached some amazing milestones that deserve to be celebrated. In some states, veteran homelessness has even been completely eradicated, with places like Little Rock, Arkansas, announcing at the end of 2018 that it effectively ended veteran homelessness in its community. The announcement brought the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs one step closer to its goal of eliminating veteran homelessness across the U.S., as Little Rock joined 65 other communities and three states, Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia, that have all effectively ended veteran homelessness.
The mission to help America’s veterans goes beyond addressing homelessness. For years, the industry has spearheaded initiatives and partnered with existing charities to give back to veterans and military families. As more mortgage and real estate businesses champion this cause, we wanted to spotlight some of those efforts here. While we can’t highlight every effort, we want to celebrate the many ways the mortgage industry is giving back to veterans.
Home improvement store Lowe’s was founded by a WWII veteran in 1946, creating a longstanding appreciation for the military community. Beyond offering programs like differential pay during service, a 10% military discount, veteran parking and the option to wear camo vests as a symbol of an employees’ service, Lowe’s recently announced a partnership with the United Service Organizations (USO), American Veterans (AMVETS) and Operation FINALLY HOME, to foster deeper relationships with the military community nationwide.
Operation FINALLY HOME helps veterans with housing and provides custom-built, mortgage-free homes and home modifications to wounded, ill and injured veterans and the widows of the fallen from all branches of the military. Through the partnership, Lowe’s contributes home building and modification support to projects across the country.
“Lowe’s is an outstanding fit as we continue to bring builders, developers and volunteers together to help our heroes and their families,” said Rusty Carroll, executive director at Operation FINALLY HOME.
During the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Annual Convention, Freedom Mortgage raised funds for military charities at a networking event. The mortgage company hosted a private auction to benefit the Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore USO and Homes for Our Troops, which builds specially-adapted custom homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans.
The auction was only one of the company’s events and activities to give back to the military through Team Freedom Cares, the company’s corporate giving program. Other examples of how the company gives back include donating nearly 10,000 backpacks with school supplies to the children of military families. The annual Rucksacks to Backpacks program kicks offs every summer, collecting brand new backpacks and school supplies to help military families across the country meet their back-to-school needs.
Recognizing the amazing difference VA loans have made for military families, Realtor.com and Veterans United Home Loans held the “Celebrating 75 Years of the VA Loan $75,000 Veteran Homebuyer Giveaway” earlier this year.
VA purchase loans surged almost 60% from fiscal 2013 to 2018, according to national data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans, and to celebrate the success of the loan, Kris Farmer, chief marketing officer at Veterans United, said, “We are excited to partner with realtor.com in celebrating 75 years of the VA Loan, a great benefit to our service members and Veterans, by continuing our support for our nation’s heroes in finding a place to call home.”
This year’s sweepstakes marked the fourth giveaway that realtor.com and Veterans United have collaborated on to give back to veterans and members of the U.S. military.
Carrington Mortgage continues to support America’s veterans through Carrington Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit that supports several organizations across the U.S. Marking its 10th year participating in this program, Carrington teams supported Boxes for Our Troops.
The goal of the drive is to send some little comforts of home to service members overseas. The boxes are not only sent to a specific military outfit overseas, but employees can even submit the names and addresses of friends and loved ones who are deployed overseas.
Furthering its commitment to helping those in the military, NewDay USA announced at the end of last year that it extended its military prep school scholarship program criteria to include children of soldiers and National Guard members with a successful deployment record in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The scholarship program was initially reserved for children of Gold Star families and the children of a 100% disabled combat Veteran.
At the time of the announcement, the NewDay USA Foundation had awarded 50 full scholarships to students at 13 military prep schools in 11 states, including 13 scholarships to GMC Prep School cadets since 2016.
These initiatives represent only a fraction of the remarkable work the housing industry is doing to give back to America’s veterans and military families. With each new program, charity and partnership, the mortgage industry continues to support veterans and remind them that no matter how the housing market shifts, this industry is committed to serving them.