Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) director, Matt Cary, recently announced a furniture-donation program for homeless veterans and their families who live in Washington, D.C. Through the program, Fort McNair has donated $75,000 worth of bed frames, box springs, mattresses, refrigerators, microwaves, chest drawers, chairs, tables and computers to the National Capitol Veterans Coalition which has, in turn, provided the furniture to OVA, according to a press release.

“One of my goals as Mayor is to end homelessness for veterans and their families in all wards of the city,” Gray said in an announcement on July 27. “This program is one way we can lend a hand up to those who have served our country.”

The National Capitol Veterans Coalition is expected to direct the program, with assistance from OVA. Providing housing for homeless veterans has formally been established by several government agencies around the nation but Gray’s furniture donation program stands as a unique tool. “When a veteran gets a house and doesn’t have furniture, we can do some basic furnishing of the apartment before they get in and that’s what we’re looking for,” says Dena Michaelson, public affairs and communication director for the D.C. Housing Authority.

In addition to Fort McNair’s donation, Fort Myer is expected to provide a $150,000 donation later this month. Several homeless veterans have been stationed within Section 8 housing around the District for the past few years but under normal circumstances, veterans typically arrive to their new residences without a single piece of furniture. Gray’s donation program not only provides comfortable and usable furniture but also allows veterans to concentrate their efforts on getting back on their feet without the financial burden of purchasing home fixtures.

“I think it’s critical because usually when a homeless veteran comes off the street, most of the time they do not have any furniture so when they are transitioned into a rental or permanent situation, they need furniture,” says Cary. “This allows them to get on their feet so they don’t have to worry about that type of thing. Some of them, actually, when they first go into housing, usually end up sleeping on the floor and that’s not a good situation for them.”

Cary adds: “This program will allow homeless veterans to concentrate on receiving health care, supportive services, education and job placement without having to worry about acquiring furniture for the housing units into which they are moving. As soon as the needs of our homeless veterans and their families are met, we will then be able to expand the program to other D.C. veterans and their families.”

Donated furniture is currently being stored at D.C.’s Oak Hill Storage Facility under a lease to OVA from the D.C. Department of Real Estate Services (DRES). DRES and several other District agencies – including the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the Office of Grants and Partnerships, the Office of the Attorney General, the General Counsel to the Mayor, the Office of Community Affairs and the Department of Public Works – have joined forces to collect, transport and store the initial donation.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO