Community attends event for homeless veterans


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University of Iowa students and Iowa City residents paid $5 to win a signed football by Iowa Football head coach Kirk Ferentz.

But that's not the only reason why many contributed to the Thursday night raffle.

The VA Hospital Outreach Program hosted a performance at the Englert Theatre with musical guests Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett to celebrate Veteran's Day.

The organization is part of a Pennsylvania-based group, The Founders Fund, which was created by Ferentz and a friend, Mike Fornear, in his hometown of Upper St. Clair, Penn., where the two played football together.

"He and I started the Founders Fund in memory of my dad and others who were very involved in their community," Fornear said. "We decided to honor the homeless veterans in a different way by hosting concerts that were fundraisers."

Thursday night marked the first Veteran's event for the Founders Fund in Iowa City.

"We are trying to expand the group all across the country and having the event in Iowa City helps the fund," Formear said.

The theme of homeless veterans did not only attract football fans. Residents personally involved with the issue also attended.

Barry Sharp, the director of the Iowa City VA Medical center, is in charge of overseeing the VA Homeless Veteran Operations.

"The challenge is finding the homeless veterans but they are not in the homeless shelters," Sharp said. "We look for veterans on camp grounds and outside."

According to Sharp, on any given night there are 985 veterans who are homeless in the state of Iowa. Annually, abouot 2,500 veterans sleep outside or seek other services.

Nationally, one-fifth of all homeless people are war veterans and an average of 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website.

Kevin Strunk, Outreach social worker, who actively seeks homeless veterans in Iowa City, said at times it's difficult to find them.

"I go to hospitals, shelters, and free lunch programs on a regular basis," Strunk said. "I have dash-40 sleeping bags and other supplies in my car to immediately assist those who need it. "

Strunk then helps set up doctors appointments and finds out what they want to do and where they want to live. Strunk also refers the homeless veterans to Compensated Work Therapy and other programs to help them get a job.

"They have served for our country and now I'm serving them," Strunk said. "It is a great honor and I'm truly grateful for that."

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