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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Standing Down Against Veteran Homelessness in 2016

Charleston Veteran gets beard trimmed during the 2015 Stand Down Against Veteran Homelessness.

Veterans received haircuts and beard trims at last year’s Charleston Stand Down located at the Community Resource and Referral Center.

By Erin Curran, MHA, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center's outpatient clinics in Savannah, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will team up with local support agencies in September to assist homeless Veterans during their respective Stand Down Against Veteran Homelessness events.
These events are part of homeless initiative announced by the White House and VA in 2010 titled Opening Doors. The plan -  to aggressively combat Veteran homelessness by pooling federal, state and local resources to not only house those Veterans currently without a place to call home, but also to form action plans to prevent future Veteran homelessness.  The results have been an unprecedented effort by VA hospitals and their community partners nationwide to ensure that every homeless Veteran has access to safe, affordable housing. And the plan has been working.
According to the 2016 Point-In-Time (PIT) count, conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veteran homelessness nationwide declined nearly 50 percent since the initiative began.  Data cited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a 17 percent decrease in Veteran homelessness since 2015--four times more than 2014's rate of decline. 
Since March 2016, Veteran homelessness has been eliminated in the state of Virginia and Connecticut as well as in cities in 14 other states across the country. 

While this is promising progress, there is still more to do.  

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has an active homeless program that assists Veterans with safe housing, employment, health care and mental health services.  In June 2015, the medical center, in collaboration with Palmetto Goodwill, opened the Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), to help Veterans who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  

The CRRC is located at 2424 City Hall Lane in North Charleston and helps Veterans build a foundation of health care, job training education, emotional support, and financial resources to get back on their feet.  At this location, VA employees work alongside community partners to help turn each Veteran's tale into a success story and make sure they find their way home.    

Savannah hosts their thirteenth Stand Down  

On September 13 and 14, the Savannah VA Outpatient Clinic, in partnership with Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, will host their thirteenth Stand Down Against Homelessness and Job Fair at the Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.  

Last year's event assisted more than 400 individuals and attendees were offered hot meals, haircuts, showers and opportunities for a variety of health screenings.  This year's event will offer the same services during the two-day event including a Veteran Listening Forum with VA Associated Director Pam Crowell on September 13, from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m., and the job fair being held on September 14 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

This Stand Down will also feature some new health services, including dental services from H.C. Lewis Health Center and lung functioning screenings from Armstrong State University's Respiratory Therapy Department.  The University will also lead education sessions on tobacco use and abstinence.   

"Once again the Savannah Community has opened her arms to support this event," said Savannah VA Outpatient Clinic Social Worker Ruth Keith.  "Stand Down is an important annual initiative to help end Veterans homelessness."

Reaching out to Myrtle Beach Veterans

A Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic staff member helps a local Veteran fill out a VA health care enrollment form at a previous year’s Stand Down event

A Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic staff member helps a local Veteran fill out a VA health care enrollment form at a previous year’s Stand Down event

Myrtle Beach may be just in its third year of hosting their local Stand Down Against Veterans Homelessness event, but the event is growing every year.  This year's event will once again be hosted by AARP South Carolina, Veteran's Welcome Home Center, the Military Officers Association and the Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic and is scheduled for September 23 at the Market Common Army Reserve Center from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

"This is a tremendous undertaking by the community and in our third year, the event has grown in size and scope," said Doris Gleason, director of community outreach for AARP. "Last year we serviced 153 homeless or at-risk Veterans, had more than 30 agencies and 120 volunteers attend.  We couldn't do it without our partners and are so grateful for their willingness, compassion and never-ending energy."

Offerings at the event include: free dental, medical and eye screenings, eyeglasses, Goodwill clothing vouchers, hot breakfast and hot lunch, non-perishable food items, haircuts, showers, access to attorneys and addiction counselors, flu and pneumonia shots, free bus passes, as well as access to supplemental goods from the Department of Defense such as sleeping bags, rucksacks and work boots.  Participants will also have access to community partners, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alston Wilkes Society and the Savannah Vet Center. 

New to this year's event is the Little River Medical Center mobile van, which will provide dental and medical screenings.  There will also be a Veteran's container home on-site at the event and tours will be available.  

Charleston VAMC to host their event in October

Volunteers carry lunches to Veterans at Charleston VAMC's 2015 Stand Down event at the CRRC.

Volunteers carry lunches to Veterans at the 2015 Charleston Stand Down event at the CRRC.

Veterans needing assistance in the Charleston area can join the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and its partner, Palmetto Goodwill, along with dozens of other community support agencies, at the CRRC on Friday, October 7 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. for the Charleston Stand Down Against Veteran Homelessness.

At 2015's Charleston Stand Down, hundreds of volunteers assisted more than 375 Veterans attendees.  Like last year, Veterans can expect medical care, housing assistance, clothing, job assistance, basic health care, flu shots and haircuts, among other things. 

"We opened the CRRC in 2015 and held last year's event at this new facility," said Hugh Myrick, director of Mental Health. "This year, we agreed that we would use the same location to continue to get Veterans familiar with the services offered here. The CRRC pulls together the same agencies you'll find at our Stand Downs, but they are available year-round--like a mini Stand Down every day. Homeless Veterans can come here any time to get connected with those who can help them get back on their feet."

Area Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless can visit the CRRC, a VA outpatient clinic or the main medical center in Charleston, where homeless coordinators are ready to help.  Veterans and their families may also call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to access VA services.


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