Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
VA clinics help hundreds of Veterans at Stand Down
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center's outpatient clinics in Savannah, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina teamed up with local support agencies last week 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. The plan - to aggressively combat Veteran homelessness and bring an end to the epidemic by the close of 2015 - has resulted in 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. In 2014, the VA announced that the number of homeless Veterans was down by 33 percent since 2010.
Reaching out to Savannah Veterans
On Sept. 15 and 16, the Savannah VA Outpatient Clinic, in partnership with Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, assisted more than 400 individuals at its twelfth annual Stand Down for Homelessness Resource and Job Fair at the Savannah Civic Center. Attendees at the Stand Down were offered hot meals, haircuts, showers and opportunities for a variety of health screenings. The second day of the event brought employers together with Veterans seeking jobs.
"If you think about it, if you're a person who is homeless or experiencing difficulties with finances and what you have, it's very, very difficult to travel by bust to get to all of these services," said Ruth Keith, social worker at the Savannah VA clinic. "Today, a lot of those services are here, which a lot of our individuals here in the community need, and they can do one-stop shopping here."
According to statistics released by the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, 285 Veterans were homeless in Chatham County last year. The goal of this event was to reach those individuals in crisis and connect them with representatives from more than 40 social service agencies in an effort to get them crucial assistance.
The event included a Veteran Listening Forum with Charleston VA Medical Center Director Scott Isaacks and an address from Congressman Buddy Carter.
In addition to the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC and Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, the following community partners were essential to providing all the resources available to Veterans at Stand Down: Savannah Vet Center, American Legion Post 500, Georgia Department of Veterans Services, Georgia Department of Labor, Military Order of the Purple Hearts, Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, and Salvation Army.
Assisting Homeless Veterans in Myrtle Beach
The Myrtle Beach Stand Down for Veteran Homelessness was held Sept. 18 and was a huge success - growing in size since its inaugural year last year. The event sprung up out of necessity as key community members realized the need for the service in their area and endeavored to hold their own day of outreach to the homeless.
"This is our second year doing this event," said Kris Tourtellotte, director of the Veteran's Welcome Home and Resource Center and co-organizer for the Stand Down. "I've been serving Veterans since 1984. I was homeless back in the 80s and I had nothing. I love to see the looks on these Vets' faces who are here getting to food and other resources they need."
According to Doris Gleason, community outreach director for AARP South Carolina and primary organizer of the Myrtle Beach event, homeless Veterans were given warm-weather gear, access to showers and two hot meals, among other essentials free of charge. They were also put in contact with the services that could assist them in securing permanent lodging - namely the Department of Housing and Urban Development - VA Supportive Housing Program. Nearly 40 social service agencies were on hand to provide assistance.
The Myrtle Beach Stand Down was sponsored by the Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic, AARP South Carolina, Veteran's Welcome Home and Resource Center, Combat Veterans Association, Military Officers Association of America, and Horry Georgetown Technical College.
More to come in Charleston
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 facility's new Community Resource and Referral Center on Friday, October 30 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. for the Charleston Stand Down Against Veteran Homelessness.
"We opened our CRRC earlier this year," said Hugh Myrick, director of Mental Health, of the center located at 2424 City Hall Lane. "We wanted to hold the Stand Down at this new facility this year in order 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 every day, not just once a year. 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.