October 9, 2009
HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV), in cooperation with the City of Houston-Parks and Recreation Department, City of Houston-Office of Veterans Affairs, Coalition for the Homeless, Harris County Hospital District (HCHD), Harris County Veteran Services, Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, SEARCH, Task Force for Houston Area Homeless Veterans, U.S. Veterans Initiative, VA Regional Office, and Vet Centers recently hosted the 9th Houston Area Stand Down for homeless veterans.
“Stand Down” is military terminology referring to the brief period of time a soldier leaves an active combat area in order to rest and regain strength. Stand Downs are one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to provide services to homeless veterans.
During this two day event held at the Emancipation Park Community Center located at 3018 Dowling Street 556 homeless veterans including 11 women received services from 66 community agencies such as Harris County Hospital District, American Red Cross, United Way, Open Door Mission, Goodwill, Spiller Personal Care, Texas Veterans Commission, and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program.
“It was the tireless efforts and dedication of over 150 volunteers and dedicated community agencies helping homeless veterans get back on their feet that made this event such a success,” said Jeri Gates, LCSW, Houston Area Stand Down chairperson.
Veterans enjoyed hot meals, clean clothes, health screenings, and 68 received flu vaccinations. 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 were also available.
The Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program at the MEDVAMC 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. Treatment goals for each veteran through HCHV are individualized and may include meeting their immediate basic needs of food and protective housing; stabilization of mental health problems including substance abuse treatment and sobriety maintenance; individual and group psychotherapy; evaluation for financial disability benefits; vocational assessment; gainful employment; and schooling or a training program.
Houston is one of 30 communities where the VA will take its substance abuse services directly to the area’s homeless. Under its HCHV Program, the MEDVAMC has an addiction therapist to work directly in homeless shelters, counseling veterans with substance abuse problems.
“As an employee at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, this is the first time I have volunteered at the Stand Down. It reminds me why I am here and who my customer really is. It feels good to help our Nation’s heroes any way I can,” said Pam Maseda, who assisted Veterans with their registration.
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