When Roger Waters started his tour of “The Wall” in early 2010, he wanted to create a connection between the concept album’s anti-war sentiment and the former soldiers who returned from battle wounded. He asked his brother-in-law, Jim Durning, to invite veterans to the shows, perhaps 20 in each city.
“It was moving and illuminating — we learned so much about the challenges they face,” says Durning, who handles Waters’ merchandise and veterans-outreach efforts, having brought more than 1,500 wounded vets to The Wall Live shows and orchestrated meet-and-greets with Waters.
A meeting with Bob and Lee Woodruff at last year’s Stand Up for Heroes event — a dozen wounded vets performed with Waters there — led to discussions with Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, whose Fuller Foundation provides housing for the homeless.
As research began on where best to start, they discovered Shreveport, La., one of the top three cities with high rates of homelessness and unemployment among veterans and a high percentage of vets living below the poverty line. They created Veterans Village with houses going to veterans who completed a two-year program that included 90 days in rehab, steady employment and adherence to a formulated financial plan.
Ground was broken for the first four houses, financed by Waters’ $300,000 donation, on March 9. Keys were handed out to families on June 4 after Volunteers of America and musician John Mayer helped build, paint and furnish the homes. “Collectively, we have a responsibility to these men and women when they come home,” Mayer wrote in an email. “They take good care of us when they are serving their country — we need to take good care of them when they come back to us.”
The Woodruff Foundation, which stepped in to steward funds and handle accountability reports, found itself in a unique position of working with multiple smaller organizations. “This is a good example of a community getting to the heart of a problem,” foundation executive director Anne Marie Dougherty says. “And for us, it’s the definition of a model for future success.”