SELF has joined forces with the Green Veterans Group and the South Florida Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to develop a new Sustainable Home Improvement and Workforce Development program focused exclusively on military families and veterans. The overall goal of the program is twofold. First, the program enables veterans to complete much-needed home improvement projects, including new roofs, windows, doors, high-efficiency air conditioners, solar water heaters, hurricane shutters, weatherization, and more. These sustainable home improvement projects help lower energy and insurance bills, provide greater hurricane resistance, enhance comfort and livability, increase the value of the home, improve air quality and health benefits, and generate employment opportunities in the process. Second, the home improvement projects will be completed by other veterans who are participating in the on the job training (OJT) program offered by the Green Veterans Group in collaboration with Everglades University. Through the OJT program, veterans will perform assorted home improvement work for other veterans.
SELF specializes in raising low-cost capital for this purpose, and has already secured more than $4 million from faith-based organizations, banks, impact investors, and worldwide crowdfunding through KIVA.org, which is an international non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. SELF is an approved field partner with KIVA.org and has secured a $400,000 line of credit and authorization to use these funds specifically for the “Veterans Helping Veterans” program. Since this program was created in the spring of 2015, SELF has helped 40 military families and veterans complete $291,455 of home improvement projects. The goal for the upcoming year is to assist a minimum of another 50 military families and veterans complete approximately $500,000 in sustainable home improvement projects. Furthermore, the Green Vets OJT program will become fully operational this fall, and SELF will deploy these students on these home improvement projects in conjunction with participating contractors. The home improvement projects are typically about $8,000 each, and include 3 separate contractors per home depending on specific needs (e.g., AC, roofs). SELF anticipates generating approximately 150 total construction projects for the Green Vets over the next year.
Statement of Need:
Florida has one of the highest veteran populations in the United States ranking third with 1,583,697 veterans, including 12 percent of the Sunshine State’s population 18 and over. Florida also has one of the highest populations of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and the third largest population of disabled veterans in the nation with more than 249,000. A substantial subset of veterans struggle economically with approximately 1.4 million veterans (6.7%) living in poverty and an estimated 9% unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). Many veterans also experience severe housing cost burden and lack the financial resources needed to complete much-needed home improvement projects. There is also a great need for veterans to return to gainful employment for their mental and financial well-being as well as for the stability of our nation. Many returning veterans have no transitional employment assistance despite extensive training and experience that can be re-tooled for successful career opportunities. These skill sets can be transferred to an industry that requires rapid deployment of sustainable initiatives.