The Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, in cooperation with the City of Houston-Parks and Recreation Department, the City of Houston-Office of Veterans Affairs, B.P.O. Elks, Career and Recovery Resources, Inc., Catholic Charities, Coalition for the Homeless, Daughters of the American Revolution, Goodwill Industries of Houston, Harris County Veteran Services, Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, METRO, Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, SEARCH, Texas Veterans Commission, U.S. Veterans Initiative, VA Regional Office, Vet Centers, and numerous Veteran Service Organizations, held the 12th Annual Houston Stand Down for homeless Veterans on October 4, 2012 at the Emancipation Park Community Center.
The Annual Stand Down provided homeless Veterans with the opportunity to access a broad spectrum of services at one convenient location and to create a plan for re-entry into mainstream society. The event brought a wide range of specialized resources together to provide homeless Veterans with comprehensive medical and psychosocial services. It also offered programs specific to women and Veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The 2012 Stand Down was a tremendous success,” said Luis Paulino, HCHV director. “A record number of 75 VA and community programs provided information and services to 527 male Veterans and 38 female Veterans which included 26 Veterans from Iraq/Afghanistan. We also enrolled 15 new Veterans into the VA health care system.”
“This is my first Stand Down. Coming out here, seeing people and agencies that want to help you no matter what, just blows my mind,” said Army Veteran Frank W. “This has gotten me connected with a lot of services that will help me back on my feet.”
B.P.O. Elks provided approximately 700 hot meals along with sack lunches. Veterans were also provided clean clothes, health screenings, laundry, and shower services. Rapid HIV testing was provided to Veterans along with VA and Social Security benefits counseling, legal aid, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services such as housing, employment, and substance abuse treatment from a variety of community agencies.
“I think this is wonderful! I was able to get a blanket, warm coat and boots,” said Marine Veteran Jack R. “This is going to help me survive the winter.”
In 2009, VA set a goal of ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015. In Houston, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is doing its part through partnerships with city, state and federal agencies, a wide-array of programs and services, and through this annual Stand Down.
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center provided homeless services to approximately 2,000 Veterans in 2011, and is increasing efforts to reach individuals who traditionally avoid assistance.
The HCHV Program is committed to assisting homeless veterans with chronic mental illnesses to reach their highest level of functioning. HCHV staff assists veterans with securing safe housing reflective of their abilities and preferences, as well as assistance with obtaining desired skill development services.
“The dedication of our community partners and 100 volunteers added to the success of this year’s Stand Down,” said Jeri Gates, 2012 Stand Down coordinator. “Their dedication, commitment and support in assisting Veterans in need is immeasurable.”
VA offers a toll-free telephone number, staffed around the clock by trained professionals, to help homeless Veterans, their families and at-risk people. The number is 877-4AID-VET (or 877-424-3838). More information about VA’s homeless programs in Houston is available at http://www.houston.va.gov/Homeless_Programs.asp.
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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently ranked the MEDVAMC as the most complex of its 141 medical facilities in terms of patient population, clinical services complexity, intensive care unit and operative complexity, and education and research. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit www.houston.va.gov.