The Homeless Veterans Initiative began in June 2008 when two members of the Milwaukee chapter of Veterans of Peace, Mark Foreman and Dennis Johnson, began interviewing homeless veterans at Repairers of the Breach, a daytime shelter in Milwaukee, to find out what kinds of help they needed. It began slowly, giving bus tickets to homeless veterans to help them to get to appointments, and walking them through the process of qualifying for health care and other benefits.
The MHVI Bunker was our original warehouse, office and volunteer center.
Next came early morning outreach to find homeless vets where they sleep, in parks, in abandoned buildings, under bridges. In becoming advocates for those who were at a disadvantage in navigating the bureaucracy of the VA we earned a reputation for being people the veterans could trust and count on.
The program has grown rapidly as we have identified and worked to meet the needs of the 200 to 300 homeless veterans in Milwaukee and another 5,500 identified as at-risk. We started the first food pantry for veterans in Wisconsin and operated it for three years until a church near the VA Hospital agreed to take it over in 2013. We are no longer affiliated with the food pantry or community breakfast at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 5500 W. Greenfield Ave., West Milwaukee, which has begun operating under the similar name of Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Services.
Since Aug. 1, 2012 we have operated as a new, independent organization, Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, Inc.,a nonstock, nonprofit corporation recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax exempt charitable organization. Donations are tax deductible.