Homeless and at-risk veterans get home starter kits to transition into civilian life

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- For many veterans, transitioning back to civilian life after service can be difficult. This holiday season, hundreds of local vets will have support.

250 bins are filled with household items at the 8th annual Holiday Veterans Drive at City Hall. Everything from pots and pans to cleaning products and towels are inside. The bins will be donated to homeless and at risk veterans, as soon as they move into their very first home. This way, they will have the basics of what they need, to get started.

"What we`re doing here, and the generosity that people have given, is going to change people`s lives," said Milwaukee County Executive, Chris Abele.

The effort is organized by the city and county, as well as the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, and with the help of many sponsors and volunteers. Until two years ago, the donations were going to troops overseas. Now, everything stays in the Milwaukee area.
"Because so many and women were coming home from serving overseas, the need wasn`t as great overseas as it was right here, in our own community," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Denise Kirmsee, who used to be a homeless veteran and got back on her feet thanks to the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, knows how important it is. She says transitioning to civilian life can be lonely.

"You are still dealing with issues in your mind that you can`t necessarily discuss with a person who has not been in the military, they just don`t understand," she said.

From police officers to fire cadets, dozens of volunteers turned out at City Hall to help pack the bins.

"Everybody deserves a home, everybody deserves a place and a base where they can build a life," said Abele.

The donation drive has been collecting items since November 17, 2014. They also raised more than $14,000 to purchase items for the bins.