HUNTINGTON — In the military, “Stand Down” afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.
On Tuesday, the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center’s Homeless Community Resource and Referral Center’s 11th annual Stand Down event in Huntington afforded the same opportunity to homeless veterans in the region.
“This event is a way to honor our veterans, and it is also a way for us to identify homeless veterans in our communities and hook them up with the many services that are available to them,” said Tammy Miller, homeless program coordinator at the VA Center. “VA social workers were available to assess homeless veterans and refer them to homeless providers on the spot.”
Roughly 80 organizations, including VA programs as well as
community partners, set up tables on 9th Street between 6th and 7th avenues right outside the VA’s Homeless Community Resource and Referral Center at 624 9th St.
Thomas Ramey, Southwestern Community Action Council Inc.’s Supportive Service for Veterans Families program director, represented one of the community partner organizations.
“Our program focuses on the housing aspect,” he said. “The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program is designed to improve the housing stability of very low-income veteran families by assisting families transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing and preventing at-risk families from becoming homeless.”
Veterans and their families also were treated to a hot meal, a haircut, housing information, medical screenings, job and housing referrals and more.
“Veterans are also able to get information about benefits and assistance programs, get connected with community homeless providers, social service providers and other area providers while enjoying a hot meal and some fun musical entertainment, as well as goodies and giveaways,” Miller said.
Miller said more than 200 veterans and family members participated last year and she expected even more during Tuesday’s event.
One of those attending Tuesday’s event was U.S. Army veteran Michael Staszewski, 50, of Huntington.
“I am a regular participant of some of the programs here at the VA Center in Huntington, and these folks are wonderful,” he said. “They are my friends and like my family. I don’t know where I would be today without them.”
Scott Collins, 58, of Huntington, served in the U.S. Army during the Cold War era and said the event really helps by giving veterans in need a hand up, not a handout.
“A lot of these veterans don’t have the resources that many others have, and this event offers so many of those needed resources and connections to hopefully have a better life,” he said.
“Our mission is to care for veterans, period, whether they are homeless or housed. Our goal is to give back to veterans that have given so much to us,” Miller said.
For more information, contact the VA Community Resource and Referral Center at 304-529-9142.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.