In honour of the 20th year of the Good Neighbor Awards, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and Havas Chicago are working together to celebrate the impact of each winner in the communities they call home.
Each year, NAR’s Good Neighbor Award recognises members who make extraordinary commitments as volunteer leaders, improving the quality of life in their communities. In 2019, NAR awarded Mark Solomon, along with four others, the Good Neighbor Award. Solomon is a real estate agent and REALTOR - and a Veteran who co-founded Veterans Community Project (VCP), which works to eliminate Veteran homelessness. NAR is recognising Solomon and VCP with a thoughtfully constructed pop-up art installation in Kansas City’s Union Station beginning today, to bring awareness to the pioneering work of Solomon and VCP.
VCP built a village of 49 tiny homes in Kansas City, Missouri, and provides comprehensive services to battle Veteran homelessness. 'The Battle Home
' is an experiential installation and replica of the tiny homes that VCP builds for Veterans. Everything about the home, from the materials used to the stories it tells, pays homage to Veterans and the positive impact that Solomon and VCP have had in Kansas City.
The Battle Home – Fighting to End Veteran Homelessness
Created by Havas Chicago, every detail of the home educates visitors about the reality that some Veterans face once they re-enter civilian life. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given night, more than 37,000 Veterans are found living on the streets across the U.S.
The installation brings this sensitive issue to life using 'bricks' constructed from a fabric that is often representative of the Veteran homeless experience - sleeping bags. Through QR codes on the bricks, visitors can experience the true stories of 11 homeless Veterans’ journeys from living on the street to living in a tiny home provided by VCP. A chevron-patterned light installation inside represents the tens of thousands of homeless Veterans, highlighting the pervasiveness of the issue.
“The Battle Home installation is incredibly meaningful to me. My job as a real estate agent is to use my expertise to guide clients through the home-buying journey. So to me it’s simply inexcusable that any member of the armed services would face homelessness after serving their country,” said Solomon, who remains a member of the Navy Reserves and will be deployed again in fall 2020. “I’m so grateful to the National Association of REALTORS® for recognising VCP's work as this installation creates another inspiring way to raise funds and awareness about our mission to end Veteran homelessness around the country.”
“NAR has done incredible work recognising the good deeds of its esteemed members like Mark Solomon. The Battle Home is a creative effort to bring that goodwill to life and to raise awareness of VCP’s innovative solution to Veteran homelessness”, said John Norman, chief creative officer, Havas Chicago. “VCP was established around the universal human truth that all people – but especially our Veterans – deserve a safe place to call home. As human beings we thrive on community and on a basic instinct for security. The storytelling is powerful and grounded in truth, and it’s executed extremely well, which makes this all the more meaningful. It’s an honour to bring VCP’s inspiring mission to life creatively.”
Helping Veterans Come Home
Contemplating the irony that U.S. Veterans battle for their country - their home - and then many battle homelessness when they leave the service, Solomon knew he needed to help. A combat Veteran himself, he co-founded VCP to help other Veterans on their battle to find a home and community. His housing expertise as a REALTOR and his commitment to sheltering Veterans led him to draw up a plan for a tiny home village with walk-in support services for Veterans in transition from the streets to home. Since housing its first Veterans in 2018, VCP has helped reduce Veteran homelessness in Kansas City.
“Mark inspired us all by connecting his work in real estate with his experience as a Veteran,” said NAR president Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco. “It’s a privilege to bring forward this installation to support Mark and VCP and do our part in helping to amplify their mission.”
The Battle Home made its debut on 27th July, running through to 14th August in Kansas City’s Union Station, East Grand Hall. It is open to the public. The installation will then travel around the country to future VCP site locations. Audiences can see the stories and content from the installation here
on a mobile device.