What Would You Give Foundation Tackles Military Homelessness

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Seeking Contributions To Grow Non-Profit

My vision is to have a Veterans Community Resource Center in every major city in the U.S. My personal mission is to help 1 million veterans.

A shocking, yet relatively unknown statistic is that one-fifth of all homeless people are veterans, according to the Veterans Administration. On any given night, some 107,000 veterans are asleep on the streets, the agency says. In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.

One New Mexico veteran is hoping to change those stats. Shane D’Onofrio of Rio Rancho, NM has created a non-profit organization – What Would U Give Foundation, to help get vets off the streets, train them and help them find meaningful and lasting employment. For three years, D’Onofrio has housed over 25 veterans in his home, helping them get on their feet, and paying for them via his own VA Disability paycheck. His long-term goal is to expand his organization nationally.
“My vision is to have a Veterans Community Resource Center in every major city in the U.S. My personal mission is to help 1 million veterans,” D’Onofrio explained.

With his own funds – his veterans disability pay of $1,468 per month - D’Onofrio set up a facility that can house up to 10 veterans. It has a full kitchen, living room, rehabilitation room, computer lap, a workshop and a warehouse where the vets gather food to bring to other vets still on the street. D’Onofrio is currently raising $3,000,000 to add a second building that would increase his capacity to 25 veterans with a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, physical therapy center and education and training labs.

What Would U Give Page Two

D’Onofrio asks donors and the community a simple question – one that led to the naming of his non-profit – “What would you give for veterans who have given us everything?”

Many individuals and organizations have come together in support of D’Onofrio’s mission including construction and remodeling firms, computer companies and building supply companies. Hundreds of people have donated food and cash. Working with community partners, D’Onofrio has helped veterans receive their Social Security benefits, Veterans Benefits, attain jobs, get needed medical assistance and therapy and learn computer and job skills.

Since September of this year alone, he has been able to provide Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), find jobs for five, help 10 get Social Security and Veterans benefits, and delivered over 500 food boxes to veterans on the streets and overseas to troops. He also has added a wood working shop where veterans are building projects to assist other veterans. He’s also adding three archers where he will put a garden and green house for the veterans to use for rehabilitation.

One of the disabled veterans living there now is Jason Millett, a 29-year-old Iraqi veteran and Purple Heart recipient. He was shot during his second tour of duty in Iraq and found himself homeless after returning home. Jason had to quit his job when he decided to go back to school and that left him without enough money. D'Onofrio found him and brought him to Rio Rancho six weeks ago. Jason is now working to get a degree in engineering.

Dale Klaben, a 52-year-old Vietnam veteran, lost sight in one eye from being a welder for nearly 30 years. That disability and a long-term struggle with alcohol led to him becoming homeless. In the month that he’s moved in with D’Onofrio, he has successfully sobered up and feels his life has a purpose again.

“I want to stay here,” he explained. “At the end of every day now, I have a feeling of accomplishment. There’s so much to do here, and I love helping my fellow vets. I know now I’m a productive member of society and that feels great.”
People interested in helping D’Onfrio help our nation’s veterans, can go to the What Would U Give website. D'Onofrio can be contacted at (505) 217-2230 or (505)401-9879.


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Joan Griffin
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