“You’d be so lean, that blast of January
would blow through you.”
Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale
It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be homeless and on the street In January.
Regardless of the circumstances that bring Veterans and their families to living in cars and over the heating vents of the subway, it’s a fate that none of us would wish on anyone. And a problem that 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 were able to 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.
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 Down 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.
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.
Members of the Health Care for Homeless Veterans tea and volunteers at Lebanon VA Medical Center who held their Stand Down on Jan. 20 in Harrisburg. (Thanks – Keisha Kerr)
A Cleveland VA Medical Center Stand Down also took place on Jan. 20 at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. (Thanks – Reaver Nelson)
31 Years of Stand Downs in San Diego
VA San Diego Healthcare System will co-host the second North County Stand Down for Homeless Veterans and their dependent family members from Jan. 25 – 28, in Escondido. Read the full story
Over 70 Agencies at DC Stand Down
The Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center is hosting a Stand Down this Saturday, January 27, from 9:00 to 2:00 at the Medical Center, 50 Irving Street NW, Washington, DC. Services will be offered from over 70 participating federal, state and community agencies.
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, multi-agency 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?
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.