“Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor…We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous…we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us.” –President Obama

There are almost 800,000 veterans in Illinois, nearly 75% of whom are war-time veterans. Reintegration into civilian life can be difficult in the best of times, but a challenging US economy has compounded the problem, resulting in an almost 12% unemployment rate among veterans. Close to a quarter of the country’s homeless population are veterans.

These statistics are sobering. However, there are organizations like Inner Voice on Chicago’s west side, that are realizing the needs of homeless veterans and doing their best to answer the call. Inner Voice runs a transitional housing facility in East Garfield Park, dedicated to honorably discharged veterans.  They also built the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to provide the services veterans needed to transition into civilian life in Chicago.  Services for veterans include:  job placement assistance, permanent housing placement, GED and adult literacy training, vocational training, case management, and transportation and rental assistance.

Organizations like Inner Voice are fighting a difficult battle.  While the needs of the veteran population keep growing, funding in this economy remains a challenge.  You can see the needs of the organization as you walk into the building.  Handwritten signs point you through a maze of hallways.  Overfilled boxes of files are stacked on collapsed shelves.  The walls haven’t seen paint in years.  The team at Inner Voice focus their time, resources, and efforts on the veterans they serve, leaving little energy for facilities maintenance.

Enter volunteers from Home Depot.

Seeing the difficulties facing veterans, The Home Depot Foundation has made a commitment to invest $30 million over three years to help address veterans’ housing issues.  In addition to making grants, they also support non-profit organizations serving veterans by completing volunteer projects that involve repairing or modifying homes to make them more affordable and comfortable for veterans and their families.

Today, around 40 employees from The Home Depot visited Inner Voice to improve their facilities, making it possible to serve Chicago’s veterans in a more comfortable and respectful way. The employees, some of whom are vets themselves, served side by side with homeless veterans; painting walls, building seating and shelving, constructing new signage, and creating two murals that honor military service.

On this, the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we say, “I will never forget.”

Today, a group of volunteers from Home Depot put those words into action at Inner Voice. Each swing of a hammer, each stroke of a paintbrush reminded veterans, “We have not forgotten.”

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