Homeless Veterans find Essential Services at Stand Down
HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, in cooperation with the City of Houston-Parks and Recreation Department, City of Houston-Office of Veterans Affairs, B.P.O. Elks, Career and Recovery Resources, Inc., Coalition for the Homeless, Daughters of the American Revolution, Goodwill Industries of Houston, Harris County Hospital District (HCHD), Harris County Veteran Services, Housing Corporation of Greater Houston, Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP), Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, SEARCH, Texas Veterans Commission, U.S. Veterans Initiative, VA Regional Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12024 of The Woodlands and The Ladies Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Motorcycle Group of Texas Unit 1-12024 and Vet Centers hosted the 10th Houston Area Stand Down for homeless Veterans on October 21-22, 2010, at the Emancipation Park Community Center.
"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.
"The Stand Down was a tremendous success," said Luis Paulino, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program director at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. A record number of 85 community agencies provided information and services to 802 male Veterans, 26 female Veterans and 230 homeless non-Veterans.
Veterans enjoyed hot meals, clean clothes, health screenings, and 160 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 from community agencies such as Texas Veterans Commission, Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, Career & Recovery, Goodwill Industries, IRS, and American Red Cross.
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.
"The dedication of our community partners and 100 volunteers added to the success of this year's Stand Down," said Jeri Gates, 2010 Stand Down coordinator. "Their commitment and support in assisting Veterans in need is immeasurable."