When New York City firefighter Stephen Siller was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001, his older brother, Frank Siller, made a commitment to honor him and other first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice.
That led Frank and the Siller family to establish the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which honored Stephen’s heroic trek from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan during one of the darkest days in American history. Carrying 60 lbs. of firefighting gear on his back, Stephen set out on foot to save others, but never made it home.
The organization has since expanded, and now Frank Siller is taking it even further: His next goal is working on “eradicating” homelessness among veterans with the launch of the Houston Veterans Village, which will offer 161 former hotel rooms that have been converted into apartments.
And he’s asking corporate America and national sports teams to join the mission.
“We’re going to ask Fortune 500 companies for $1 million a year, for five years. And why do I ask for five years? Because I need the budget,” he said during an appearance on FOX Business’ “Varney & Co.” “I need to know a certain amount of money is coming in.”
Siller said the organization needs to raise between $6 billion and $8 billion to fund the project.
“The government would probably take three to four times that to take care of what we have to take care of,” he said.
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The T2T’s Homeless Veteran Program also offers permanent housing via 500-square-foot comfort homes. Early recipients include Vietnam veterans.
Siller estimates there are as many as 50,000 veterans without a home.
On Friday, American Express announced a $2 million commitment to the Houston Village, as well as projects in Florida, Arizona and New Jersey and the National Case Management Network, which assists vets with housing across the country.
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“This grant underscores American Express’ commitment to honoring our military heroes who put their lives on the line to protect our nation,” Jennifer Skyler, chief corporate affairs officer at American Express, said in a statement.
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Tunnel to Towers, which has raised over $500 million since its inception, also builds smart homes for catastrophically injured vets and pays off the mortgage for Gold Star families and first responders who were killed in the line of duty.
The foundation informed 50 families on Veterans Day this year that they are now mortgage-free, Siller said.