Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Tulsa School Wins Veteran Homelessness Challenge
The elementary school finished first place in VA’s nationwide End Veteran Homelessness Challenge, which was held October to December 2018. Eight schools from across the country participated in the challenge, which involved holding a donation drive of essential household items for Veterans who have recently moved into permanent housing.
Veterans who are exiting homelessness need essentials such as bed sheets, socks, cleaning supplies, pots, pans, plates, utensils, and glasses. Led by the school’s Student Council, the students collected items valued at more than $2,000. Items were donated to the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System’s Homeless Program which is distributing the items to Veterans.
“VA has the resources to get Veterans into housing, but what we don’t have are the resources to help fill the house to make it feel like a home,” said Melanie Stewart-Goldman, EOVAHCS Homeless Program Manager. “For items such as sheets and cookware, we rely on the community to help our Veterans fill their home.”
Denise Marquez, Principal of Henry Zarrow International School, said it was an honor to get recognized by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
“It just motivates us to do an even better job next year and we hope that this is a program that continues every year,” said Marquez. “Everybody did such a great job, and it just represents everything that our school system stands for to carry on the Henry Zarrow legacy of just making sure we’re taking care of everybody in our society that needs some extra help, especially our Veterans. That made it extra special to our students knowing that they were helping people that helped defend our freedoms.”
The End Veteran Homelessness Challenge is a partnership among the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Student Council Association.
“We got an invitation from the federal offices asking us to participate, so we decided to join and say yes to the challenge,” said Raquel Astacio, a 3rd grade Science and Social Studies teacher and sponsoring teacher for the Student Council. “I did not know that Veteran homelessness was such a big problem in the United States. We believe it’s a great cause.”
According to a survey conducted in January 2018 in the Tulsa Metro area, a total of 1,083 people were identified as being homeless. Of those, 113 were Veterans.
“There is still work to be done to make sure every Veteran has a place to call home,” said Stewart-Goldman. “The VA Homeless Program has relied on community partners for years to help fill the gaps to house Veterans, and donation programs like the End Veteran Homelessness Challenge are important to ensure Veterans will continue to receive the support they need to secure and maintain stable housing.”