Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Stand Down Against Homelessness supports Veterans
Veteran Stand Down Against Homelessness events are hosted annually by VA medical centers all throughout the country with the goal to connect Veterans with the VA and community resources they need to get back on their feet.
“At our VA, we provide comprehensive wrap-around service from housing to medical and mental health care to case management and job training for Veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health Dr. Donald L. “Hugh” Myrick. “We are making strides every day helping Veterans find their way home, but there is more to do and Stand Down is a great opportunity for Veterans to find the care and services they need.”
The 2016 Charleston Stand Down Against Homelessness was held at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center located at 2424 City Hall Lane in North Charleston. The event was originally scheduled for Oct. 7, but was rescheduled to Dec. 2 due to weather threats from Hurricane Matthew. Charleston VAMC partnered with Palmetto Goodwill and Palmetto Warrior Connection to host the 17th annual event.
The event boasted more than 100 volunteers, all of whom worked diligently to provide assistance to more than 180 homeless persons and people in need, including about 153 Veterans. This is about half of the number of Veterans that attend last year. As an outreach event, Charleston VAMC always strives to reach Veterans in the community to assist and educate them on the services that are available.
This downward trend in attendance reflects the daily efforts of Charleston VAMC’s homeless program to get Veterans into transitional and permanent housing all throughout the year. In fiscal year 2016, the homeless program permanently housed 584 Veterans, that is 86 more than last year and 164 more than 2014. As Dr. Myrick stated in his opening ceremony remarks, “The end goal would be to no longer have to hold this event, because all of the Veterans in our area have a place to call home.”
U.S. Army Veteran and mother of three Monquic Eazel was at the event leading the pledge of allegiance during the opening ceremony and encouraging Veterans to seek the assistance they need. Eazel attended the event in 2011 as a homeless Veteran looking for help and shelter for her family. Through her connections at the event, Charleston VAMC’s Homeless Program and Housing and Urban Development Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Vouchers, she has been in permanent housing for more than five years, graduated from cosmetology school and is working full-time.
“Through the program I was able to provide a home for my family and now me and my kids are happy,” said Eazel. “A lot of Veterans I know don’t know about this program, and it’s really something they should all know about, so they can be a part of it if they need it.”
Those who attended the event were able to access medical care, shelter, clothing, job assistance and learn more about VA programs, among other things. Basic health care, flu shots, HIV testing, and employment services were in high demand. Howard’s Barber and Styling College and Project Street Outreach were offering haircuts, Palmetto Goodwill provided clothing vouchers and backpacks, and volunteers prepared, packed and distributed two hot meals to the participants.
The event also included a Listening Forum with Charleston VA Medical Center Associate Director Pam Crowell. Crowell met with area Veterans as they visited the different service areas at Stand Down and addressed concerns. She also lauded the success of the Homeless Program and commended the staff's daily efforts to support this underserved population.
“The outstanding and diligent staff members in our homeless program have been hard at work this year placing chronically homeless Veterans in stable housing,” said Crowell during the opening ceremony. “This center [VA Community Resource and Referral Center] was opened in June 2015 and serves our homeless Veterans and those at risk of homelessness year round. Events like our Veteran Stand Down are wonderful and serve our community members in need, but it is important to remember that these Veterans need our help every day and this center helps us accomplish that goal by providing full wrap-around services for Veterans in need.”
Stand Down is funded by a federal grant offered through the United States Department of Labor and there is no cost to attend.