February 9, 2011

Columbus teen formed group to help homeless veterans

ONUMBA.COM – Davante Goins is only 15-years old.  But he is not your typical 15-year old. 

Goins is a 10th grade sophomore at Mifflin High School.  When you talk to him, he sounds every bit like a teenager.  And he probably does many of the same things folks his age do.

But Goins, notwithstanding his youthful age, is a young man on a mission:  to help homeless veterans.

Referred by the officials of the Columbus School District, the Call & Post called Goins up last week to find out the kind of things he is up to these days.

He is up to a lot.  

Goins told the Call & Post he was looking forward to a big meeting on his calendar with the officials of the Columbus Veterans Affairs.  There, he would discuss his plan to help homeless veterans. 

NBC4 TV has featured his story.  He has had meetings with the Columbus City Council and other government leaders to share his plans for helping homeless veterans. 

And those plans tell the story of a focused young man with a noble goal.

Goins is the chief executive director of ‘Operation Shelter 4 Homeless Veterans,’ an organization he established to help place homeless veterans in ‘transitional homes.’

The group’s website, ‘operation4homelessveterans.org,’ says its mission is “to get homeless veterans off the streets of Columbus, Ohio.”   A huge part of that, said Goins, is to refurbish “vacant and abandoned properties, to be remodeled into transition homes for the homeless veterans to reside in.”

“We want to clean up Columbus and get homeless veterans off the street,” he told the Call & Post.  He pointed to the “5,700” abandoned and vacant homes in Columbus that could be converted into homes to house homeless veterans.  And “the number is still growing,” he said. 

His goal is to repair these homes for homeless veterans.

But Goins knows none of this would be easy.

That’s why he said his group will “take it step by step, day by day” to accomplish his goal of finding transitional homes and “get them [veterans’ into these homes.”

“Everybody has a story to tell like Ted Williams,” said Goins, referring to the remarkable saga of a once Columbus homeless man whose velvety voice became his ticket to fame and opportunities.

“It’s criminal for veterans to be homeless in the United States,” he said. 

If anything is more criminal, for Goins, it is allowing these abandoned and vacant homes to crumble to waste while the city’s homeless veterans dwell under highway bridges in an unconscionable squalor.

Goins, who plans to attend Law School, possibly at Georgetown University, said the inspiration to launch the project came from his grandfather.

He shared the glum stories his grandmother told him about his grandfather who returned from Vietnam War to shabby treatment and scorn.

That inspired me to start this project, said Goins, whose favorite movie is “Lean on Me.”  If all goes well, homeless veterans in Columbus will probably be doing just that.  “It’s a way “to put service above myself,” he said.

“I have the opportunity to give back to the community,” said Goins.

He is seeking funding for his project and plans to pitch his mission to media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, and First Lady Michelle Obama, who frequently speaks out on behalf of homeless veterans across the country.

Goins assembled a six-member board to work with him.  They are Howard Williams, Director of Housing; Michael Watkins, Director of Veterans Affairs; Brandi Martin, Director of Community and Public Affairs; Mike Meyer, Chief Director of Operations; Denise Johnson, Director of Legal Affairs, and Larry Farley, Director of Education.

Davante Goins and ‘operation4homelessveterans.org can be reached at:  614-589-7084.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com


Ike Mgbatogu

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus, Ohio. He can be reached by email at Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.

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