WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN employees spent Monday volunteering with Passageways by doing yard work, painting and cleaning. It’s a non-profit that gives homeless veterans a place to call home until they are back on their feet.
It was part of Founder’s Day of Caring for KSN’s parent company, Nexstar, when employees are encouraged to give back to the communities we serve.
Since 2014, Passageways has made it a mission to fight veteran homelessness with a four-bedroom home in Wichita. But its providing more than just a home to the veterans.
“They support each other and the camaraderie within the house is just, it’s humbling. They’ve got each other’s backs and they really want to see the best for each other,” said Jennifer Garrison, CEO Passageways.
Garrison started the program five years ago after hearing news of a homeless veteran dying under a bridge in Wichita.
“And it really struck a cord with my mom and my family, we were just like how is this happening in this day and age.”
Since then, 79 veterans, all men, have graduated from the program and moved into their own apartment.
That’s the goal of passageways helping veterans get back on their feet.
“When the heroes are all set they have their ID, then we help them with their benefits, get them to the right people who can help them, or we help them find a job.”
The program, which sleeps up to 9 veterans at once, takes veterans to doctors appointments, the VA and to counseling any day of the week.
“We don’t say you have to have your life together, and you need to be out in 60 days,” said Garrison. “It is whatever life path they’re choosing as long as they are making forward progress we will be there to support you.”
The program is run entirely on donations and and relies on volunteers to survive. It costs about $5500 each month to run the home, and the group gets no government funding.
“And a lot of this, we’ll send with the heroes when they graduate, so they’ll have them over at their own apartments,” said Garrison. “So toilet paper, paper towels, and this is just one of three different areas where we have donations.”
Veterans walk in to the home at their lowest.
“We’ve had heroes come through here that have flat out told us, on their graduation day, I had my suicide date picked out and that was when I was going to end it,” added Garrison.
The organization works to make sure the veterans leave restored, and with new opportunities.
“They just want a happy life. They just want to enjoy the freedoms that they fought for and be able to wake up everyday and not have to worry about basic needs.”
Donnie Johnson, a Wichita native and Army Veteran, just moved into the home. He found out about it from the VA and is looking forward to finding work and finding an apartment he can share with his daughter and grandchildren. He says he’s welcomed the support he’s received from other veterans at the home.
“You just get to know the other brothers that’s here,” said Johnson. “We all, we got that camaraderie, no matter what branch we was in, we still got that camaraderie.”
“I thank God for this place, for real. I thank God for Jennifer, for whoever supports the house, I really do appreciate that. It is excellent,” said Johnson.
Passageways relies on donations for the veterans including everything they’ll need to set up their own apartment once they graduate from the program. The group can use any household supplies, dishes, bedding, cleaning products, toiletries, furniture, small appliances, gas cards and bus passes. Find a complete list of requested donations here.
If you’d like to volunteer your time, sign up here.
If you’d like to donate financial support, click here.
To find out more about the program and upcoming fundraisers including a concert and 5K Run/walk click here.
ON SOCIAL MEDIA