FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Anonymous Donor Gives $10,000 to Make Sure Arizona’s Women Veterans Have a Happy New Year!
Phoenix, Ariz, Dec. 31, 2013—Over the past year, the City of Phoenix has taken great strides toward ending homelessness and in particular toward ending chronic homelessness among veterans. The Madison Street Veterans Association (MSVA) is one of many organization working on this issue, and its success rate is unrivaled. Until recently, MSVA had separate peer-based transitional living programs for both male and female veterans facing homelessness, but a change in federal funding policy ended the grant that supported the women’s section.
“We recently had a huge victory for our veterans with Mayor Stanton leading the charge to end chronic homelessness among veterans. But this is one battle in the larger fight to ensure every veteran has a home in the community they fought for,” said Corey Harris, Vice President of the Arizona Veterans and Military Leadership Alliance (AVMLA). “The VA recently predicted that over 100,000 veterans will be moving into Arizona over the next few years. With that will come a new influx of veterans experiencing homelessness to add to those who are recently without homes. Our female veterans are no exception.”
This past summer, several community groups banded together in an initiative called Blistering at the Margins in order to raise the necessary funding to keep the MSVA’s women’s section open. Volunteers including project director Seráh Blain, AVMLA’s Corey Harris and State Representative Mark Cardenas collectively spent nearly a month sleeping on the streets of Phoenix to draw attention to issues faced by people experiencing homelessness and to raise money. The Home Depot Foundation also partnered with the MSVA to transform and update the women’s shelter, bringing 75 volunteers who dedicated their time and talent to expanding the facility and making it more comfortable.
Blistering at the Margins raised over $28,000, but fell short of bringing in the $50,000 needed to keep the women’s section operating through the fall. The facility closed and the women who had been living at the MSVA were moved to other housing throughout the state. Arizonans advocating for women veterans have expressed concern that these women have lost an invaluable resource.
“The peer based model of MSVA has been proven to be successful,” said Panayiota Bertzikis, a Scottsdale resident, Coast Guard veteran and Executive Director of the Military Rape Crisis Center. “Women who have been in the program reported being most helped by the comradeship and support of other women veterans. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate the healing and support network that one gets from their sisters-in-arms.”
Blain expressed similar concerns after meeting with the women who called the MSVA home. “It was heartbreaking to hear so many stories of what these women had endured in their service to our country, to have listened to them talk about how well they were being served through MSVA’s women’s program and how important that peer support was, and then to fail in our efforts to keep them in the program,” said Blain. “And now it’s going to be a much bigger financial jump to reopen the section.”
A Phoenix attorney was not intimidated by that challenge and yesterday donated $10,000 to Blistering at the Margins for the MSVA women’s section. He said he had been wanting to do more to support veterans in need, but did not know where his contribution would be best used—until he saw Blain on the news during the time she spent living without shelter.
“I was inspired,” the donor said. “I drove around downtown that day looking for her.” He was not able to find her, but later came across a news article on the MSVA and contacted Harris to find out if there was a way to help. In addition to the donation, the anonymous donor will be reaching out to friends and colleagues to help reignite the project and raise the needed funds.
“This incredibly generous donation will go a long way towards reopening Madison Street Veterans Association’s Women Veterans’ Center,” said Harris, “It could not have come at a more critical time.”