The Phoenix VA and a variety of partner organizations provided resources and care to more than 1,000 Phoenix-area Veterans in January for the 17th annual Maricopa County Veteran Stand Down.
This year the stand down, held in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, provided services such as medical and mental health screenings, dental and non-health care related services such as education, haircuts and court assistance. Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Housing Coalition, said the event doesn’t just provide Veterans services but helps to raise awareness.
“The stand down is one-stop shopping to help break down barriers for our Veterans to get them the help they need,” said Amanda Mason, services chief. “We have all the services under one roof from the Veterans Benefits Administration, Phoenix VA [hospital] and the Arizona Housing Coalition.”
Penny Miller, Community Resource and Referral Center coordinator, said the Phoenix VA works year-round through the center to provide services and support to homeless Veterans, but by partnering with the Arizona Housing Coalition and other organizations VA reaches a larger number of Veterans at the annual event. Through collaboration, the coalition to end Veteran homelessness strives to refine and provide better services based on lessons learned from previous stand downs.
“Every year we try to learn from the previous years and improve through an after-action report,” Mason said. “We’re involved in planning the event and work with the community on everything. We can’t end homelessness alone. We’re blessed with a very involved community.”
Mason said homelessness is a health care issue, but she credits the relentless dedication and professionalism of Phoenix VA employees for helping to break the cycle of homelessness among Veterans.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development there are roughly 57,849 homeless Veterans on any given night across the country. Approximately 41 percent of homeless Veterans are between the ages of 35 and 54, and the number of female Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans experiencing homelessness is on the rise.
“If you identify them, then you can get them in and engage them,” Miller said. “This is the biggest part of what we do for the year. We need to bring services to the Veterans.”
For additional information about Veteran homelessness in Arizona, visit the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Homeless Veterans Services Division.