Continuing Efforts to Avert Veteran Homelessness
This past Saturday, January 27, 2018, the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center was transformed into a hospital-wide outreach event to care for 840 homeless, at-risk and underemployed Veterans. Participants received medical and mental health care, VA benefits and services, employment and housing support, legal counseling, warm clothing, comfort kits, haircuts, a hot meal and much more.
This marks the 24th year the medical center has hosted the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down, a one-stop resource haven. At least 79 federal, state, and community agencies along with Veteran Service Organizations, non-profit community partners, donors and sponsors came together with a single mission– to provide a full day of services, support and resources for Veterans in need.
According to Acting Medical Center Director, Lawrence B. Connell, “Community support is a driving force in the success of this major event. With more than 456 volunteers, including Active Duty Military members of the Marines, Air Force, Army, and Navy working alongside the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, we are able to address the many contributing factors associated with homelessness among Veterans.”
This year, Veterans were screened for cholesterol, Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Flu and pneumonia shots were offered as well as eye and dental exams. Veterans also received consultative services in podiatry, Telehealth, and nutrition. The Women’s Health Clinic provided care and services to 65 female Veterans. Additionally, Veterans received over 750 coats, 640 pairs of boots and 780 duffle bags filled with warm blankets, sleeping bags and personal care items.
Not all Winterhaven attendees are homeless. Many are underemployed and at-risk of homelessness. The event connected this population of Veterans with resources to avoid foreclosure or rental eviction, help with utility bills, financial management counseling, and on-the-spot employment. Although the Stand Down is an annual event held on a single day, the DC VA Medical Center operates the VA Community Resource and Referral Center, which offers homeless, at-risk and underemployed Veterans access to VA health care and community resources on a daily basis. The center is located in N.E. Washington, DC.