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Furnishing the fight to end veteran homelessness

Senior Airman Macy Creager, 355th Contracing Squadron, carries a dorm mattress that will be donated to homeless veterans. (Courtesy Photo)

Senior Airman Macy Creager, 355th Contracing Squadron, carries a dorm mattress that will be donated to homeless veterans. (Courtesy Photo)

Technical Sgt. Ian Lutjens, 355th Contracting Squadron, carries furniture out of an empty dorm on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The furniture donations will help Tucson meet its goal of housing an additional 75 homeless veterans this year. (Courtesy Photo)

Technical Sgt. Ian Lutjens, 355th Contracting Squadron, carries furniture out of an empty dorm on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The furniture donations will help Tucson meet its goal of housing an additional 75 homeless veterans this year. (Courtesy Photo)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Nearly 63,000 veterans were homeless on any given night in the U.S. last January. Members of the 355th Contracting Squadron and other base personnel volunteered their time late last month to help shrink the daunting number of homeless veterans in Tucson, Ariz.

With one of the dorms on D-M set to be renovated, project managers from the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron, along with contractors, wanted to avoid the usual wastefulness that goes along with demolishing rooms and buildings before renovations. Instead of letting the building's old furniture items go to waste, they saw an opportunity to assist local veterans in need.

Members of the 355th CONS stepped up to partner with other government and non-profit agencies. They provided planning, manpower and logistics support for the project.

"We help fellow service members every day to meet their mission needs," said Senior Airman Marilyn Menjivar, a volunteer from 355th CONS. "It is definitely a nice change of pace to get out and be able to help our service predecessors meet their living needs after falling on hard times, since leaving active duty."

Each volunteer contributed about five hours of labor in order to clear out 76 rooms on three floors, without elevators. Over 550 pieces of furniture, including desks, beds and wall lockers, were removed from the vacated rooms and donated to veterans in need.

Glenn Fournie, the 355th CONS Honorary Commander from the City of Tucson Housing and Community Development office, was at the forefront of the effort.

"The veterans we are helping with these programs are chronically homeless; they are coming directly from the streets and deserts," Fournie said.

Counselors at Veterans Affairs and the Red Cross help veterans with health care, employment, identification and benefits issues, while Fournie's program helps furnish a place for these veterans to call home. Through partnering with the 51 Homes Coalition, the Tucson Housing and Community Development office has successfully housed 83 homeless individuals.

Numerous agencies and organizations have entered the battle to end veteran homelessness. There are several local organizations doing their part here in the Tucson area.

If you know a veteran in need, the VA's National Call Center for Homeless Veterans provides 24/7 access to trained counselors for homeless veterans or veterans at-risk of homelessness at 1-877-424-3838.

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