WATERLOO — The Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission is reaching out to homeless veterans through their stomachs.
Kevin Dill, the commission’s executive director, is planning to grill and serve hot dog meals to homeless veterans starting at 11 a.m. every Wednesday in Lincoln Park in downtown Waterloo.
“The goal is to bring the homeless vets out from under the bridges to get them connected with our office and other community resources,” Dill said. “Our goal is to eliminate veterans homelessness in this county.
“We will hopefully feed their stomachs as well as a little food for their souls,” he added. “We are taught as veterans to never leave anyone behind, so I hope our office can be a light for them to come out and get some assistance.”
The effort got off to a wet start last week as heavy rain pounded the area.
Dill and representatives of several service agencies — Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, Operation Threshold, Heroes Care and Yellow Ribbon — huddled under a tent. Air Force veteran Damian Spratt manned the grill.
Private donors and other agencies are sponsoring the meals.
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Dill noted only five or six veterans showed up this week, but he expects the number to grow with better weather and as the news spreads through word of mouth.
Fliers have been left at places homeless persons frequent.
A similar effort Dill started 10 years ago in Davenport eventually grew to a weekly crowd of 25 to 30 veterans and more social service agencies.
While Dill said its not known how many homeless veterans are in Black Hawk County, a Des Moines veterans organization estimated the number fluctuates between five to 30 people at any one time.
He just wants to make sure they all eventually find housing.
“There’s probably benefits they never applied for,” Dill said.
“Maybe there’s a monetary benefit that can get them into housing.”