The Des Moines Homeless Veterans Stand Down is a three-day event held every September. As a result, members of the community, including VA staff and Iowa Air National Guard staff, meet monthly to plan the event and coordinate fundraising.
The 2019 stand down was held Sept. 6-8.
This stand down is unique because it is open to everyone in the community, including non-Veterans. We get broader community support by being more inclusive, and the additional contributions and support enhance what we can do for the Veterans.
Services vary from year to year; however, they always include social work and Department of Defense surplus items for Veterans. Surplus items include boots, coats, backpacks and sleeping bags.
Services also include unlimited used clothing for everyone, haircuts and massages. Organizers provided meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.
The Vet Center, VA Medical, dental services from the Smile Squad and employment services provided assistance. Housing assistance, DART bus passes and suicide prevention assistance also were provided.
Organizers provided sleeping tents for overnight shelter for those in need.
New to 2019 were the Turner Construction Hospitality tent, which provided games, snacks, prizes and movie nights on Friday and Saturday. Also, the Street Dog Coalition gave vaccinations and preventative medicine to pets. In addition, the Animal Rescue League provided pet food donations.
Number of homeless Veterans has decreased
This year, the event served 441 Veterans, 473 non-Veterans and 53 children. The number of homeless Veterans has decreased over the past few years; however, many Veterans who are not homeless have needs that can be met at the stand down.
While we celebrate having fewer homeless Veterans, there are still Veterans who need help and assistance.
Over 2,500 meals served
The VA Medical tent served 125 people and gave 103 flu vaccinations. The DOD tent served 356 Veterans and the Smile Squad served 30 people. Volunteers served over 2,500 meals.
This event could not be successful without the generous donations we receive throughout the year. Veteran Service Organizations, businesses and individuals work together to ensure the success of every event.
For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/VaCentralIowaHomelessVeteransStandDown/.
Jessica Chapman wrote the article, with edits by Dave Rowell, Des Moines Homeless Veterans Stand Down Committee co-chair and Lead Diagnostic Radiologic Tech at the VA Hospital. Chapman is the committee secretary and laboratory manager at the Des Moines VA Hospital.