John Mellencamp Returns To Toledo To Help House Homeless Veterans
Before his 2007 concert in Toledo, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer John
Mellencamp made a chance visit to the Tent City – Project Connect event downtown
and was impressed with how “the community comes together to give compassion to
those who need compassion.” He was impressed enough that he invited all of the
Tent City guests to his show that night; 60 went.
One returned after the show and said to Tent City founder Ken Leslie, “Ken,
John talked to us from the stage. I guess I really do matter.” From this,
1Matters was born.
What had been a local project grew to become a regional 501(c)3 non-profit,
which Mellencamp has continued to support. 1Matters.org now creates and funds
new programs that return people to financial and domestic autonomy, including
street papers in three cities, a program addressing rural homelessness, and most
recently a national program, Veterans Matter, which has already housed over
1,100 veterans in 12 states.
This fall, before his concert at the Stranahan on Oct. 21, Mellencamp will
return to Tent City, this time as the Honorary Mayor and Grand Marshal to kick
off Tent City and the Veterans Matter Walk to End Veteran Homelessness.
“John has made it a lifelong mission to use his celebrity not just to draw
attention, but to provide his time, capacity and resources to countless
organizations which care for others, such as Farm Aid. The goal here in Toledo
is to bring the national spotlight to Toledo’s compassion and our urgent mission
to house 2,000 more veterans nationwide this year,” Leslie said.Mellencamp quote
Leslie said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer’s support draws more than
“In part because of John’s long-term engagement with us, Jordan Reses Supply
Co. out of Ann Arbor just made a national commitment of $300,000 for housing
veterans and funding the start-up of our new employment program to hire the vets
after they are housed.”
Prior to the public events in Toledo, Mellencamp will meet privately with
some of the people housed by the organization’s programs.
“John probably does as much quiet support as he does public support,” Leslie
said. “Yes, he does PSAs and raises funds for us, but the happiest I have seen
him is on the road when we take him to a shelter and he meets the people there.
In one shelter cafeteria with over 50 people, alone without staff, John went
table to table extending his hand and greeting every single person with, ‘Hi,
I’m John, what is your name?’ Everyone was really moved by that.”
To help the group raise additional funds, Mellencamp will also invite the
highest Veterans Matter Walk fundraiser and a guest to his show that evening
with a meet-and-greet immediately following. The singer is donating an
additional ticket package to support the Oct. 19 fundraiser hosted by his
long-time tour manager and 1Matters board member Harry Sandler. Sandler will be
presenting an October-long show of his photography, “Images of a Photographic
Journey,” at the Toledo School for the Arts Porter Gallery.
About Tent City
Started in 1990 by Ken Leslie, formerly homeless himself, Toledo’s Tent City
– Project Connect has focused the region’s compassion on restoring the unhoused
to financial and domestic autonomy. In addition to housing and employment, the
weekend-long Tent City delivers a complete medical center, critical documents
including IDs and birth certificates, dental services, clothing, haircuts, food
About Veterans Matter
Veterans Matter was started to house 35 local veterans as the result of one
of the “blitzes” Leslie conducts with the VA’s homeless outreach teams. Leslie
created Veterans Matter to provide deposits directly to landlords to eliminate
the last barrier preventing homeless veterans from crossing the threshold into
VA-supported, long-term voucher-assisted housing. This partnership gives
Veterans Matter a 100 percent success rate housing veterans in the VA’s
long-term housing program that has a 91 percent success rate keeping them