Shane D’Onofrio made helping homeless veterans his life’s work.
Shane had special empathy for struggling veterans, since he had served himself and suffered an injury that caused mobility issues. He went through his own struggles after his injury and separating from the military, so he understood many veterans didn’t need a handout, but a hand up.
“When I got out of the military, there wasn’t a lot of help for veterans,” Shane said. “These are the men and women who give us our freedom. These are the men and women who go to other countries and protect our borders, and, when they come back, they should have an opportunity to be successful.”
Finding a Way to Help
He founded Heroes Walk Among Us, a nonprofit based in Albuquerque, to help homeless veterans get on their feet. The organization provides housing to veterans, facilitates secondary education or job training and renovates donated vehicles to provide veterans with transportation to work. In addition, volunteers help veterans navigate needed Veterans Administration services.
“Our goal is to give veterans the opportunity to get off the streets and back into the community,” Shane said. “When they get out of the military and come back, a lot of the time, they get lost. And we’re here to give them a hand and help them move forward in life.”
When a triplex home was donated to the organization, Shane saw the potential to house three more homeless veterans. However, the triplex needed to be gutted and renovated, and it would cost thousands. Although every dollar is precious to Heroes Walk, just like any other nonprofit organization, the organization saw the pressing need to assist homeless veterans and went forward with the initiative.
Shane and volunteers did a significant portion of the work to reduce costs, but for the specialized work that must adhere to building codes, they found a professional plumber. Shane was optimistic they would shortly have three new residences for homeless veterans.
The Helpers Need Help
Then the organization learned the plumber didn’t have the appropriate permits for the work done. Heroes Walk couldn’t afford to pay a second plumber to do the work. They were at a standstill.
It can cost between $3,000 and $12,000 to replace a sewer line, $1,500 and $5,000 for a water line and $500 to $1,500 for a gas line. For safety and code enforcement reasons, most plumbing work must be done by a licensed and insured plumber. However, more than one-third of American homeowners have $500 or less set aside for home repair emergencies. Just like Heroes Walk Among Us, these homeowners experience an economic shock, or a large and unexpected expense, when they have an emergency repair.
A financial shock isn’t a rare occurrence, because 60 percent of American household experienced one of the course of a year, according to The Pew Trusts. In addition, more than half of U.S. homeowners had a home repair in a 12-month period.
Organization Receives Assistance
Undaunted by the financial set back, Shane was determined to see the project finished, even if he had to use his own savings and line of credit. He began calling plumbers out of the phonebook, hoping someone could help. On his third try, he called Steward’s Plumbing of Albuquerque and his luck changed.
As soon as Eric Maxson, Steward’s Plumbing president, heard about Heroes Walk and their dilemma, he knew that he needed to help them. Luckily, Eric and Steward’s Plumbing are part of the HomeServe contractor network and he was aware of the HomeServe Cares Foundation, which has a program to assist veterans.
“I got a phone call from our dispatcher. She said there was an opportunity to work with a nonprofit that needed some help,” Eric said. “I came down the next day and had a look at what he had going on and how we could be of service and provide a home for some disabled vets.
“HomeServe is an amazing organization. I had no doubt that, in some way, they would want to partner with us to get this project moving. Twenty-four hours later, we were ready to go!”
Eric contacted the foundation to share the story of Heroes Walk and the organization’s plight. Shortly thereafter, the foundation agreed to defray the cost of the plumbing. The job included installing water, sewer and gas lines for all three residences. Within just a few days of calling Eric, Steward’s Plumbing crews were hard at work.
“I didn’t think it would be this fast,” Shane said. “A big thank you to the HomeServe Cares Foundation. Without you, we couldn’t complete this project. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”