Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Veterans get assistance at 18th annual Stand Down
For nearly two decades now, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has hosted their annual Veteran Stand Down Against Homelessness. The goal of the event is to connect Lowcountry Veterans with the VA and community resources they need to build a successful future.
Charleston VA’s Chief of Mental Health Dr. Hugh Myrick kicked off this year’s event as the opening ceremony emcee.
“This is now the third year we will have hosted our Charleston Stand Down at the CRRC [VA Community Resource and Referral Center],” said Myrick. “It continues to be important for our Veterans to be familiar with this location, so they are aware of the year-round services that are offered here. Today’s Stand Down is a great event to reach Veterans who are in need, but our goal is to help Veterans all year, not just every October.”
Three years ago, the event venue changed to the CRRC located at 2424 City Hall Lane in North Charleston, previous events were held at the Danny Jones Complex Armory in North Charleston. The new venue is a recent addition to Charleston VAMC and is a daily resource center for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The CRRC contains VA services like housing assistance, transition care management and eligibility, among others. Alongside these VA staff are community agencies assisting Veterans with job placement, legal services and other resources. The CRRC has been dubbed “the everyday Mini Stand Down.”
Two hundred and thirty-seven homeless persons and people in need attended the 2017 Charleston Stand Down event, including 200 Veterans. Approximately 100 volunteers were on hand to help serve breakfast and lunch, register participants, complete homeless assessments, and direct Veterans to different offerings at Stand Down.
Veteran who once faced homelessness finds help, comradery at VA
During the opening ceremony, Paul Cornell, a U.S. Marine Veteran, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the ceremony, Charleston VAMC Director Scott Isaacks shared that Marine’s story, a Veteran who was formerly homeless.
“[Cornell] refers to himself as a 22-er, one of the many Veterans who has attempted suicide because of mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, that have plagued him since he left the service,” said Isaacks.
Two years ago, Cornell ended up at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center with just a backpack and a carry bag. After visiting Charleston VA’s Homeless Primary Care Team (HPACT) walk-in clinic, he was transported to the CRRC and connected with the people and resources that could help. That night Cornell had a roof over his head, sleeping at Vet Villas. He stayed there for the next seven months.
“He found all the services he needed to be safe and housed within the same day he showed up at our medical center,” Isaacks shared.
With the help of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and who Cornell describes as his “Veteran family,” he is now a full-time employee at the medical center and has his own place.
“This man, his story—this is why we come to work every day,” said Isaacks. “We are here to serve these Veterans before us at Stand Down, the Veterans at our medical center and our outpatient clinics, and to reach those Veterans who we haven’t yet connected with in our communities.”
At the event Veterans were offered hot meals, haircuts, clothing, and the ability to speak with VA staff for health care needs, including women’s health, suicide prevention, mental health, dental services, chaplain services, eligibility and enrollment, stroke prevention, flu shots and rapid HIV testing.
VA’s event partners, Palmetto Goodwill and the Palmetto Warrior Connection were on hand to distribute backpacks filled with underwear, socks, thermals and t-shirts. They also coordinated the on-site job fair with more than a dozen employers ready to hire Veterans.
Stand Down is funded by a federal grant offered through the United States Department of Labor and there is no cost to attend.
If you or someone you know is interested in helping the Veterans served at the Charleston VA Medical Center, you can contact the Voluntary Service office at 843-789-7230.