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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Doing The Work: Supporting Veterans on Veterans Day and Beyond

Tucked inside of Baltimore’s bustling streets, there is a destination where veterans in need of help can access comprehensive services while pursuing a second chance to live a better life, even after Veterans Day discounts and freebies end. An uninformed passerby who is unaware what sort of important work unfolds at Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, Inc.  (MCVET) — located at 301 North High St.— could miss the significance of the brick building. Inside the walls of the 110,000 square feet facility, a nonprofit led by Jeffrey Kendrick, USAF (Ret), leads a team to address veteran homelessness. MCVET’s Executive Director of six years is known for sticking around MCVET long hours, day or night, doing the work to leave no veteran in need of services, housing, and employment behind. The dedicated leader who has worked at the nonprofit for 14 years knows that supporting veterans requires maintaining momentum and constant effort.

“We would prefer that people come to our program from all over the United States, but our strongest concentration seems to be within the DMV (D.C., Md., and Va.), with a heavy concentration coming from the Baltimore metropolitan area, Washington, D.C., and Richmond,” Kendrick said. “Currently, we have 81 veterans currently housed. Five of those are female veterans. We have the capacity of course to house 200.”

When it comes to a general mistruth some people may have about homeless veterans, Kendrick opted to take the chance to clarify that there is no description of what a homeless veteran looks or acts like. He or she may be male or female, black, white, or be classified within some other racial group, according to Kendrick.

What is commonplace is for MCVET’s Executive Director to observe a surge of veterans finding their way to walk through MCVET’s doors as fall and winter seasons approach. Although the number of homeless veterans has decreased over the years, the unsettling challenge has not been eradicated. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count which is led annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), estimates statistics of Americans who lack stable housing. PIT’s numbers were published in The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress in 2020. Per the report, 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the U.S., on any evening in January of that year. Between 2019 and 2020, the amount of both sheltered and unsheltered veterans enduring homelessness increased by under one percent.

Despite positive numeric strides, it is often said that just one veteran who is homeless is still too many. With this premise in mind, Kendrick and his team routinely push for veterans who participate in MCVET’s program to complete education and training, achieve fulltime employment, and ultimately secure housing. Some veterans chose to achieve this goal through HUD-VASH vouchers. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development describes the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program as a combination of “HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”

Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, Inc. (MCVET) is holding the MCVET 5k/10k Veterans Day Virtual Run & Walk. The proceeds from the fundraiser will support homeless veterans and other veterans in need. MCVET provides comprehensive services to enable these veterans enable to reenter their prospective communities as productive citizens. MCVET can also be supported online after the event on Veterans Day.

Kendrick also mentioned several ways that the community can lend a hand to help homeless veterans year-round. 

“The general way that people can help us is to be alarmed that there are still a significant number of homeless veterans in the nation, and the best help that you could do is identification of these homeless veterans, with the thought being that you could send them to MCVET,” Kendrick said. “Of course when a veteran comes to MCVET, there are material needs that would be needed for that veteran to come into the program, whether it be clothing, whether it be bedding, whether we have the sufficient income to make sure that they’re being fed. So for us, it’s an ongoing strive within the program itself to achieve specific goals.”

Cereta Spencer—the Director of Development and Community Engagement— plays a keep role in helping to achieve MCVET’s program goals. She uses her professional expertise to raise money and awareness on behalf of the nonprofit organization. Additionally, she nurtures business relationships, establish partnerships, engages in public relation marketing, and helps where she may to support veteran productivity. 

“MCVET started in 1993. We’ve helped over 11,000 plus homeless veterans, and we are national nonprofit. We’ve got homeless veterans from all over the United States. All walks of life, all colors, etcetera,” Spencer said.

Photo courtesy of Cereta Spencer

Jeffrey Kendrick, USAF (Ret) (left), works as Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, Inc. ‘s (MCVET’s) Executive Director.  Cereta Spencer (right), serves as the nonprofit’s Director of Development and Community Engagement.

Despite MCVET’s track records of making a difference in the lives of men and women who have served our country, the nonprofit faces additional challenge created because of COVID-19, like numerous others. Spencer remarked that she does not want the public and funders to forget about MCVET. In-person fundraisers have been limited since the pandemic hit, and in-person volunteer opportunities had to be shut down for safety reasons, but MCVET’s need of support to keep its doors open remains unchanged.

From November fourth through November 11, MCVET’s 5K/10K Veterans Day Virtual Run & Walk has been underway to raise money for the nonprofit. Individual and virtual team participants are striving to complete 3.1 miles for the 5K, or 6.2 miles for the 10K. The entry fee is $35 to register. Kendrick added that the signature fundraiser is MCCVET’s principal manner of raising funds.

Even after the race, Kendrick, Spencer, and other staff at MCVET will continue serving veterans in need.

“My goal is to work until I can make sure that there’s no longer a homeless veteran in the nation,” Kendrick said. “There’s a lot of self-satisfaction in knowing that you are working in a job where you are genuinely helping people, and you can’t beat that. A lot of people have great jobs, make gobs and gobs of money, but they may not be feeling like there’s any fulfillment. I can honestly say that the fulfillment comes in this position in knowing that you are enriching the lives of the people who have come into your program.”

You may learn more about MCVET via http://www.mcvet.org/. Visit https://runsignup.com/Race/MD/Baltimore/MCVET5K10KWalkorRun  to locate the5K/10K Veterans Day Virtual Run & Walk. Donations may still be made to MCVET after Veterans Day.

Please utilize the link https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/mcvet to support MCVET’s homeless veterans at any time of the year.

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