A national organization asks Columbia to support homeless veterans

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COLUMBIA - A supply drive for homeless veterans kicks off with a new approach the second time around. The Upsilon Iota Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is expanding its efforts to combat homelessness among veterans by extending an invitation to the community and local businesses to donate toiletries, cleaning supplies, health product, and gift cards to buy the items. Last year was the first year the national organization collected donations but on a smaller scale from within the organization. This year the group is aiming to collect more donations and to coordinate more with the community.

According to the 2013 Annual homelessness report, the number of homeless veterans in Missouri has declined exponentially since 2009 due to increased access to resources. A spokesperson for Zeta Phi Beta said although things may seem to be improving there is still a community of homeless veterans, therefore there is still a need for more resources. 

"One thing we must remember, veterans are a single separate group of individuals that choose to do something that most of us wont do everyday. They sacrifice their lives for our freedom," said local chapter secretary Khandicia Randolph.

All of the supplies collected will be given to the VA homeless Veterans Program and Welcome Home, Inc. The VA Homeless Veterans program is housed within the VA hospital and acts as a resource for veterans to have meals and access to health care and resources needed to function in everyday life. Welcome Home, Inc. is also dedicated to veterans and provides emergency and transitional living services.

Both emphasize residential stability, increased skill level and income and greater self-determination of participants as ways to help improve the quality of life for displaced or disabled veterans.

Welcome Home, Inc. says any donations are helpful and is working on plans to build a homeless campus, or permanent housing community for homeless veterans.

"I think that it is unfortunate a citizen is willing to give his or her life, for the cause of the call of duty, for their country, that more isn't done to ensure they have everything they need once their service is complete," Randolph said.

The Zeta Phi Beta supply drive will last until mid-November and is part of the organizations national initiative to support veterans, and military personnel.

To make donations contact Z-HOPE Coordinator Ernestine Newsome at ernestine_newsome@yahoo.com or 573-424-4959 or event co-chair Khandicia Randolph at Khandicia@mail.com or 573-268-7809.

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