Stand Downs critical to homeless Veterans in winter

Communities, partners, VA, organize events


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Buffalo VA Medical Center Stand Down 2018

No Veteran should be homeless and on the street in January or any other month.

No Veterans and their families should be living in cars or sleeping over the heating vents of the subway. It’s a problem we all wish we could fix. But there isn’t one easy solution. So, we help when and where we can.

That’s what Stand Downs are all about.

What is a Stand Down?

In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. At secure base camp areas, troops could take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment.

Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s homeless Veterans on any given night “combat” life on the streets.

Veteran gets a haircut at a Stand Down Photo by Rey Leal

Veteran gets a haircut at a Stand Down – Photo by Rey Leal

Homeless Veterans are brought together in a single location for one to three days and are provided access to the community resources needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives.

In the military, Stand Downs afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. Today’s Stand Down affords the same opportunity to homeless Veterans.

The Washington DC VA is hosting a Stand Down on January 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the medical center, 50 Irving Street, NW.

Clothes for a Veteran at the DC VA Stand Down

Clothes for a Veteran at the DC VA Stand Down

Stand Downs are typically one-to three-day events providing supplies and services to homeless Veterans, such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings and VA Social Security benefits counseling.

Veterans can also receive referrals to other assistance such as health care, housing solutions, employment, substance use treatment and mental health counseling. They are collaborative events, coordinated between local VA Medical Centers, other government agencies and community-based homeless service providers.

What can I do?

This VA website is a great place to start to learn what you can do to help.

Here’s a list of Community Resource and Referral Centers which provide Veterans who are homeless and at risk of homelessness with one-stop access to community-based, multiagency services to promote permanent housing, health and mental health care, career development and access to VA and non-VA benefits.

You could go to the website of your area VA medical center to see if they are holding a Stand Down. You could print out the information about the event and hand it out to homeless Veterans you see on the street or sleeping under the bridge. Just ask: Are you a Veteran?

Assistance with signing up for VA health care at the DC VA Stand Down

Assistance with signing up for VA health care at the DC VA Stand Down

Hundreds of caring volunteers and professionals give of their time and expertise to address the unique needs of homeless Veterans. Committees formed specifically to put on the event stage most Stand Downs. Veteran service organizations, National Guard and Reserve units, homeless shelter programs, health care providers, U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor staffs, Veteran-helping-Veteran programs, and concerned citizens from the community organize and stage the events.

Author

Hans Petersen

Hans Petersen is senior writer-editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.

Comments

  1. August    

    There is no housing for homeless veterans at the Stand Downs; all the homeless veterans leave the Stand Downs still homeless.

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