Atlanta VA Health Care System
Atlanta VAMC holds annual Stand Down for homeless Vets
Article by Robin Brown, Deputy PAO
Images by Ann Hamilton, Photographer
Some 500 volunteers marched onto the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus Oct. 29 to support the Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down and help kick off the initiative to end homelessness.
“Stand Down” is military terminology referring to the brief period of time a servicemember leaves an active combat area in order to rest and regain strength. This event offers Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness a chance to rest from the weariness of life’s challenges they face daily.
The Atlanta VAMC has presented Stand Down for more than eight years. This one-day event is a joint, grass roots effort between medical center employees and a wide range of specialized resources from 36 local agencies to address the needs of homeless Veterans in the community, such as food, protective shelter, clothing, health screenings, and VA and Social Security benefits counseling. “It’s one location providing much-needed services for our homeless Veterans,” James Clark, Atlanta VAMC Director, said.
In keeping with President Obama’s vision to honor and support the men and women who have preserved our freedom, Clark agreed, “Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has established a priority goal of eliminating homelessness among Veterans by 2015.
The latest studies say more than 75,000 Veterans are homeless on a typical night, and about 135,000 spend at least one night a year in a homeless shelter.
This year, 639 Veterans from various walks of life filed through the registration line in anticipation of the many physical, mental and sociological benefits awaiting them. Since no single agency can provide the full spectrum of services required to help homeless Veterans become productive members of society, men and women received help from agencies, such as Dekalb Magistrate Court, Georgia Department of Labor, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and various Veteran Service Organizations.
In addition to providing housing, employment and healthcare services to homeless Veterans, VA’s campaign aims to prevent homelessness by connecting Veterans and their families with support before they lose their housing. Veterans lose their homes when those basic necessities fall short and sometimes bring legal challenges to overwhelm them.
To combat legal issues, court services were also made available to the Veteran through The Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program. The VJO initiative helps to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans by ensuring they have timely access to Veteran Health Administration mental health and substance abuse services, when clinically indicated.
Partnering with Dekalb Magistrate Court, Stand Down court was able to assist 28 Veterans with misdemeanor charges.
This is an opportunity for us to change and to save the lives of our Veterans who faces harsh challenges. Each year, after participating in this event, I have come away feeling good for giving back,” said American Legion Post 50’s Public Relations Officer Kevin “Doc” Johnson.
VA is encouraging family, friends and citizens in the community to “Make the Call” and help prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. Since March 2010, VA has offered a toll-free telephone number, staffed around the clock by trained professionals, to help homeless Veterans, their families and at-risk people.
The number is 877-4AID-VET (or 877-424-3838).