NJ teen raises $12K to get homeless veterans off the streets

'Shelters don't provide the safe and caring environment that our warriors deserve'

A New Jersey high schooler – who one day wants to serve in the U.S. military – raised $12,000 in order to get homeless veterans off the street. 

In September 2020, Michael Ferrara caught wind of a social media challenge raising awareness about veteran suicide. The Houses for Warriors, a Colorado-based nonprofit that helps get homeless and at-risk warriors off the streets, started a push-up challenge.

Ferrara told Fox News that he was taken aback after realizing that people who fought for this nation were living on the streets.  

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"I think that's absolutely unacceptable," Ferrara said. 

At the time, Ferrara was training for the Marine Corps Marathon. He decided to dedicate the race to the Houses for Warriors charity and reached out to friends and family on Facebook for help. 

High schooler Michael Ferrara raised $12,000 for homeless veterans. 

High schooler Michael Ferrara raised $12,000 for homeless veterans.  (Credit: Ray Ferrara)

"I felt like I was earning my donations rather than just asking for money," he said.  

As a result, Ferrara raised $10,315.  At school, through various fundraising events, he garnered an additional $1,164. 

With $12,000 in hand, Ferrara was able to help the Houses for Warriors open its first group home for homeless veterans in Colorado. 

Houses for Warriors, which works to get homeless veterans off the streets of Colorado, gets its first group home. 

Houses for Warriors, which works to get homeless veterans off the streets of Colorado, gets its first group home.  (Andrew Canales)

"I decided to raise money for a Colorado nonprofit living in New Jersey because a homeless veteran is a homeless veteran," he said. "Our veterans have fought for all 50 states, not just one. So, I feel it would be wrong of me to not raise money for homeless veterans just because they happen to live in a different state."

The home, funded largely by Ferrara's donation, will get up to nine homeless veterans off the streets. 

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"I've always looked up to our veterans, the people that have served our country, because they're out there every single day, they're going to put their lives on the line," Ferrara said. "I have a great respect for the people who are willing to and have sacrificed everything to serve our country and to keep America free. " 

Prior to Ferrara's efforts, Houses for Warriors helped get veterans off the by finding them a bed at local shelters. 

"With this house, they were able to eliminate the shelter process," he said. 

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For Houses for Warriors CEO Andrew Canales, it was a blessing. 

"Shelters don't provide the safe and caring environment that our warriors deserve to get back on their feet," Canales told Fox News. 

Canales stressed that shelters are a "very triggering place for veterans" due to the "constant open drug use, higher encounters with violent and aggressive individuals with severe mental health issues, the constant risk of theft and their personal property being stolen." 

This is on top of the fact that many of their "warriors are experiencing PTSD themselves," he added.