According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veteran’s, 200,000 Veteran men and women are homeless every night in the United States and another 1.5 million are at risk due to poverty and a lack of support networks. In the Birmingham area alone, there are 500 to 700 homeless Veterans.
This is why Jefferson State Community College SIFE has teamed up with Three Hots and A Cot, a non-profit, transitional home in the Birmingham area. We believe that homelessness and Veterans are two words that should never be together in the same sentence. Our mission is to provide the empowerment of veterans for a self-sustaining lifestyle by educating them with business and economic concepts, financial planning, job networking and nutritional guidance for healthy, productive living.
One of the major issues of homelessness is the inability to afford suitable food or the lack of food; nutrition education is provided in order to improve their quality of life and standard of living. Questionnaires are used to determine the amount of knowledge the Veterans have about healthy eating and daily water consumption. Our program educates the Veterans on healthy eating which contributes to their overall well being.
Since December 2010, JSCC SIFE has worked with 51 homeless Veterans. We have introduced a comprehensive food diary that contains the nutritional values of over 5000 different organic and unprocessed products. that will allow them to make purchases that reduce stress, improve skin, and improve health overall.
Considering that the Veterans must rely on foods that are donated to the transitional home, we assist them in preparing meals with the food that is on hand, while maintaining healthy choices.
Since the nutrition seminar, 10 of the 20 Veterans are mindful of their water intake and 5 now prefer stone ground wheat bread over the high starch found in white bread. All 51 Veterans have reported eating their full serving of vegetables on most days.
The operation of Three Hots and a Cot for veterans is very expensive. Many donations are made however, fresh vegetables are rarely available. JSCC SIFE and Three Hots and a Cot have initiated the SIFE Veteran Garden Project to reduce the expense of grocery bills. Most vegetables can be grown during the spring and summer months and can yield seven pounds of crop per square foot.
The garden, located in the back of the transitional home, will consist of fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, and peach and apple trees with flowers to adorn the garden for mental stimulation. With the help of the veterans, volunteers, and our SIFE partners we have been able to till the grounds and are expecting a harvest by May 2011.
While the transitional period can be quite challenging and strenuous, the outcome is very rewarding. We believe that the enlightenment of growing ones’ own food will aid in healthier living and serve as a tool to diminish anxiety. The qualitative benefits of gardening are evident physically and mentally Growing one’s own food allows a person to avoid pesticides and other harmful chemicals used in commercial farming. (Relevant environmental factor). Many of the veterans in the transitional housing program suffer from ailments and diseases that can improve with the induction of healthy diet and exercise. (Relevant social factor). Growing plants establishes a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in the gardener.
With cost savings of over $250 per month, 3 to 10 plants will produce a grand total of $1,275.75 in a five month period. Since the supplies like gardening tools, seed, mulch, and pesticides have been donated by generous supporters of the project, this money can be used in other areas of development for the veterans
Nationally, of the 2.2 million veterans, who served in the Gulf War era II (Afghan/Iraq wars), 459,800 or 20.9% of these men are unemployed. Our Veterans Empowered Project strives to lessen the financial burdens faced by these veterans through our Mission: To effectively enhance the financial sustainability of “Three Hots and a cot”, while focusing on veterans individually, by improving job networking skills for economic stability.
Our entrepreneurial approach with Three Hots and a Cot is the result of much research regarding non-profit organizations. We assist the Executive Director in his efforts to create a fundraising plan, which includes an “Annual Yard Sale”, the first of which was held on April 1st, & 2nd, 2011. The yard sale made over $3000 in profit. Over 500, 000 people were reached through an advertising campaign in the local newspaper and mass e-mails along with Public Service Announcements.
Job networking seminars are made available for the residents of Three Hots and a Cot to focus on the current solution for unemployment. Twenty-two men attended the first seminar at which a presentation was given by our economics and personal finance teacher at JSCC who is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board. The veterans learned that Only 10% of available jobs are listed in the newspaper, which means that 90% of the job market hiring is done through networking, word of mouth, and the internet.
Immediately upon receiving this knowledge, 3 men out of the 22, stopped relying on the newspaper classifieds and began networking with companies within walking distance of the home. All 3 men found a job, 1 of whom hadn’t worked in 3 yrs.
The JSCC SIFE team continues to focus on improving the quality of life and standard of living for these brave veterans who have returned home and are finding themselves homeless, unhealthy, and unemployed. Our service is a way saying thank you to the men and women who have served our country.