Program helping homeless veterans find a place to call their own

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On any given day, 3oo to 400 veterans in Milwaukee are homeless. This, according to the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative -- which is helping those veterans to get off the street and into a home.

"Faith and a dream" is all John Laura and his family had when they moved to Milwaukee four months ago.

Laura had left his hometown of Milwaukee in 2001 when he joined the Army straight out of high school. After one deployment to Iraq, he left the service in 2005 and stayed in Texas.

He says life was a struggle over the next decade.

"I was 20 when I went to Iraq. I turned 21 over there, so I was a baby still and with everything that I was going through then and mentally going through now I needed not a lending hand, but a crying shoulder," Laura said.

He found that in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, or MHVI began in 2008 when two Vietnam veterans wanted to see less talking and more action.

Five years later, they now have several programs, including an emergency food pantry, basic supplies for those on the streets and providing household goods.

Though Laura was eventually able to rent a house with the help of the Center for Veterans Issues, his family had nothing to put inside of it.

"Once an individual gets that, generally all they have is a backpack.  They usually have no transportation, no money, and that`s where we come in. We basically can help them have a home," Tracey Sperko said.

Laura says the MHVI donated everything he has inside his home, including the couch, the TV, kitchenware, a microwave, a dining room table, food, a coffeemaker, dishes, etc.

The family from Texas had nothing for winter.

"The brought my kids hats, gloves, snow boots, snow suits," Laura said.

MHVI even paired Laura's family with another family for Christmas. Without them, Laura's kids would have gotten few, if any Christmas gifts.

Each item the family was given was life-changing -- even right down to the dish rags.

"They would be insignificant to someone who was already here stable. Considering the fact that I didn`t have anything but my clothing and minor toys for them and like $50 to my name, it was huge to me. It was like winning the lottery almost," Laura said.

MHVI is always looking for volunteers to help sort and pack donations. As far as items go, seasonal clothing and household goods like kitchen tables and plates are always in need.

CLICK HERE for more information or to donate to the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative.