Two Saturdays ago, on one of the coldest days of the year, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki joined over 450 volunteers, more than 70 community agencies, businesses and Veterans Service Organizations at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to provide services to about 500 homeless Veterans in order to put them on the path to self-sufficiency. The event, the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down, brings VA services and community agencies together to provide a full day of support for homeless Veterans including:
- Meals served throughout the day
- On-site VA Homeless Coordinators
- Clothing and shoes distribution
- On-site health screenings conducted by members of the VA health care team
- VA and Social Security benefits counselors
- Veterans’ referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment
The Stand Down was an opportunity for my fellow Veterans of all eras facing homelessness to have easy access to the Department of Veterans Affairs programs and services for a full day. VA’s intense campaign to end Veteran homelessness in five years has broad support at the Federal, state and local levels in both the public and private sectors. Since 2008, the number of homeless Veterans on a typical night dropped 18 percent every year, from 131,000 in 2008 to 107,000 in 2009 with another large drop expected in January 2011.
The VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (VA CFBNP) reaches out to faith-based and secular organizations in order to serve the needs of homeless Veterans. The VA Homeless Stand Down is an excellent opportunity for the VA CFBNP staff to join other volunteers and provide resources to homeless Veterans.
As part of the 15th annual Winterhaven Homeless Stand Down, the VA CFBNP staff achieved their objective by joining other volunteers, providing numerous resources to the Veterans while focusing on ending homelessness among veterans within the next five years. Many homeless Veterans provided the following reaction to the volunteers: “Thank you for everything and for this Stand Down; we needed these services.”
If you have any questions or comments about this information, please email VAPartnerships@va.gov.
Stephen B. Dillard is the Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs