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A Hand Up for Our Veterans

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, we are proud to co-sponsor an event that aims to serve homeless veterans and veterans in need in our community—the Veterans Stand Down.  The original Stand Down for homeless veterans, offered in San Diego in 1988, was modeled after the Stand Down concept used during the Vietnam War to provide a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations. 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. The Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.  Since the first Stand Down, the program has become recognized as a valuable outreach tool to help homeless veterans across the nation.

Why is this important?  On any given night across the country, there are more than 100,000 homeless veterans living on the streets.  While we don’t have specifics on the total number of homeless veterans in our community, we do know that at least 20% of the homeless report veteran status.  These are men and women who have served their country, many during war time deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, leaving families and friends behind to keep our country safe. I speak from personal experience as a mom with a son who just came home from active duty and served a deployment in Iraq.  He has a loving family and lots of support but I still know that his experiences in the war changed him.  What if he didn’t have a home and family to come to?  Would he be one of these statistics?  Sadly, I think the odds would not be in his favor and that breaks my heart.

I’m sorry to say that this is not a new problem.  But it is certainly one that deserves our attention and our commitment.

So we are doing our part by organizing the first ever Veterans Stand Down in Springfield, scheduled for Tuesday, September 23rd from 10:00-6:00 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.  Much like the Hope Connection one-stop service event for the homeless , the Veterans Stand Down will bring a wide array of services to one location, making them more accessible and breaking down barriers homeless veterans may have.  Through the work of our local Homeless Veterans Task Force, we have more than 20 partners offering services such as flu shots and immunizations, mental health and substance abuse referral and information, employment and education services, housing information, health and hygiene supplies, birth certificates and state ID cards, and legal services.   By giving resources, information and tools veterans can use in a safe and respectful environment, we want to transform the despair and immobility of homelessness into the momentum that will encourage and assist them in finding their place within the community and getting off the streets.