2013 Difference Makers – John Downing

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — Transitioning homeless veterans into homeowners. Tonight, we introduce you to John Downing, one of this year’s Difference Makers.

John Downing’s passion is serving our nations veterans by making them feel at home.

As the president of Soldier On, Downing has worked tirelessly to restoring the diginity and purpose of our nation’s homeless veterans.

“In our program, we have no rules. Our job is to make you successful to the degree that you want success and to the degree that you want to return to the center of your life. So what we have been able to do and started to do was we deliver services where you live,” Downing says.

And many of the veterans that Solider On works with are now just be shuttled into shelters. They are being offered the chance to own their own home.

Downing adds, “If you could own where you lived, you probably wouldn’t leave. Now, that magical fact worked for us so what we decided to do was figure out how we could build affordable housing that you could own and that will have sustainability and ‘controlability’ for the rest of your life.”

Soldier On builds condos and works with veterans to help them have an actual ownership stake, all the while bringing much needed services right to there door.

And in this era of budget cuts and austerity, Soldier On is proving that their model reduces the long term costs.

“With the model of home ownership and services being delivered where you are drives down – over the lifetime of a homeless veteran – the long term medical care costs by 300 percent.”

Downing works alongside a dedicated staff of young people who share his commitment to those who have served our country and being there whenever they are needed.

“You can’t do this work on an 8 to 5 basis. This is a seven day a week, 24 hour a day challenge. Our people are homeless 24 hours a day. Their lives have been broken for years. They need us to be there when they need us,” Downing notes.

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