The SEMO Student Veterans Organization also known as the SEMO SVO is in the process of renovating a house for homeless veterans to use as they transition back into civilian life. KRCU's Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Cole Schreiner, the president of the SEMO SVO, Mathus Williams, the fundraising chairman for the SEMO SVO and Amanda Woods, the outreach coordinator for the Office of Military and Veterans Services about this.
Lewis-Thompson: You all are in the middle of a pretty significant project that is meant to help veterans who are homeless or troubled. Tell me more about it.
Williams: We started the project in 2014, which the home was anonymously donated. It's a three story home with a full basement. We've worked on the demolition process of basically deconstructing it down to its sub-flooring and its studs, which is the framework. And now we're looking to rebuild it, so it's more updated [and] up to modern codes as well. The goal of this house is to help aid veterans from past, present and future combat zones. [Also],to aid [veterans] into civilian life [who] are looking to find a place to stay while improving on their life, but also further their education.
Lewis-Thompson: What's needed to get to the next phase of this project?
Schreiner: Well, we'll never turn down donations. Donations are always going to help. Right now Mathus has been the main point of contact for contacting electricians, plumbers and other such contractors. We also have people all over the place who are wanting to donate. Certain local businesses or national chains have been offering up grants and help for this. Mostly Mathus has been writing to them to try and petition to get some of that funding. But a lot of just local contracts. We're hoping to work with the CTC [Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center] that way it works for a project for them, so their students can get experience and then we get free or cheap labor from them.
Williams: When it comes to just volunteers, you don't necessarily have to have the skill trade to volunteer. We always have extra work that people can do. As far as donations go it kind of intimidates a lot of businesses [and] companies thinking that we're asking for money, because you know times are hard. So we try to alternatively ask for material donations, because someones got extra lumber. Someones got extra tile. Someones got extra pvc piping. Someones got extra building materials we could use. On top of that monetary donations are always acceptable. We have a GoFundMe page that we use where we try to procure a lot of donations that way for people you know [who] are not physically able to pick up a hammer and help out.
Schreiner: But the biggest thing we'd like to be able to have is just help. Just people who can't give anything else other than their time that's the biggest thing we need. Because we normally don't have the biggest numbers out there. Because like I said a lot of our members are non-traditional students, because they've already done their six years or maybe 12 years and they're coming back. So most of them have a family or they have a job already. So they're busy on most weekends. So we lose a lot of our supporters who are able to help on that.
Lewis-Thompson: Will there be other resources available to them once this house is done? Will there be resources for job opportunities, or learning how to do a different type of trade?
Woods: Right, so one of the tenets of the SVO as well the Office of Military and Veterans Services is to provide a network of support. And part of that network is referral. So, both the SVO and the OMVS [Office of Military and Veterans Services] have lots of partnerships throughout the community to include the Department of Veterans Affairs, workforce development with the state of Missouri, the local health clinics. We're always getting job referrals, and of course education is a big key, because in those sectors that need higher education. We try to step up even if it's not with Southeast, if we can align a veteran with a program that will help them secure those jobs for their future, we're definitely going to do that.
To find out more about this project call the SEMO Office of Military and Veterans Services at 573-651-2263.