When it comes to accounting for homeless veterans, the numbers are hard to pin down. One estimate says 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the country. Another says one out of every three homeless men served his nation in a branch of the military.
No matter the count, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Obama administration say one homeless vet is one too many. VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in November unveiled the department’s $3.2 billion, five-year plan to end veteran homelessness by marshalling the resources of government and the private sector.
“President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among veterans within the next five years,” Shinseki said at the VA’s National Summit for Ending Homelessness Among Veterans.
Shinseki’s plan includes preventive measures like discharge planning for incarcerated veterans, supportive services for low-income veterans and their families, and a national referral center to link veterans to local service providers. Additionally, the plan calls for increased support for education, jobs, health care and housing.
“Our plan enlarges the scope of VA’s efforts to combat homelessness,” he said. “In the past, VA focused largely on getting homeless veterans off the streets. Our five-year plan aims also at preventing them from ever ending up homeless.”
Shinseki recently affirmed his commitment to eradicating veteran homelessness when he, along with 600 volunteers, attended the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down in Washington, an event which brings VA services and community agencies together to provide a full day of support for homeless veterans.
The term “Stand Down” has its roots in war times, when exhausted combat units were able to rest, take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, and mail and receive letters at secure base camp areas. Today, Stand Down refers to the grassroots, community-based events across the country where homeless veterans receive food, medical care and access to support sources all in one location.
An estimated 400 local homeless veterans are expected to show up at the 5th Annual Akron Stand Down, where volunteers and service organizations will devote a day to serving homeless veterans from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14 at the VFW Post 3383, 690 W. Waterloo Rd. Call (330)762-7328 for information, to volunteer, or to donate winter clothing, utensils and other supplies for the Stand Down.