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Jason Kander joins nonprofit assisting homeless veterans

Jason Kander

Jason Kander, shown in July 2017, is one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

 For the first time since dropping out of the Kansas City mayoral race in October 2018, Jason Kander is taking on a leadership position.

A former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Missouri secretary of state, Kander, who is Jewish, will lead a national expansion of the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that aims to end veterans’ homelessness, according to a news release.

The organization assists homeless veterans by connecting them with existing community resources and guiding them through the process to get help from Veterans Affairs, according to the Kansas City Star. The group constructed a village of tiny homes in Kansas City where veterans can live rent-free while they receive medical care and seek a job and a permanent place to live. 

Kander, who served in the Army National Guard in 2003 in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer and later received assistance from the Veterans Community Project, will lead the nonprofit’s effort to add eight locations around the country by 2022.

Kander told NBC earlier this year that his job in Afghanistan “was to do anti-corruption and anti-espionage investigations within the Afghan government. I was in situations where I thought I might be about to be kidnapped or killed.” 

That experience left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent nightmares and suicidal thoughts. 

Still, he narrowly lost to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in the 2016 race and then founded an organization, Let America Vote, that aimed to end voter suppression. Some pundits speculated that he could be a candidate for the 2020 presidential race. 

Kander decided to enter the Kansas City mayoral race and was considered a frontrunner until he revealed his mental health struggles. He eventually decided to drop out of the race to seek treatment.

“I thought that if I could come home and work for the city I love so much as its mayor, I could finally solve my problems,” Kander wrote in an essay on Medium.com. “I thought if I focused exclusively on service to my neighbors in my hometown, that I could fill the hole inside of me. But it’s just getting worse. So after 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms, I have finally concluded that it’s faster than me. That I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it.”

Kander told NBC last month that in treatment he learned “that trauma doesn’t get better with age.” 

“If you broke your arm and then you waited almost 12 years to actually do anything about your broken arm, it would be pretty mangled,” he said.

On how he feels now, Kander said “I don’t feel fragile. I actually feel a lot stronger.”

Kander’s work with the organization will likely receive additional national attention because Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg planned to tour the project with Kander on Wednesday morning, according to the Star. 

Kander told NBC that “I definitely am not gonna run for anything in 2020.”