Chillicothe VA Medical Center
Stand Down 2010
After volunteering at the Columbus, Ohio Stand Down, held at Veterans Memorial each year, housing staff of the Chillicothe VAMC proposed holding a Stand Down event locally to ensure that homeless veterans in rural Southeastern Ohio would have access to services that homeless veterans in urban areas have had for a number of years. While homelessness is easily recognized in the city, with people sleeping on the street and pushing their belongings along with them in a grocery cart, rural homelessness is more easily hidden, as camping out in a farmer's field, sleeping in abandoned houses or staying in a friend or family members basement or barn.
Working with County Veteran Service Offices, local and regional shelters to arrange transportation to bring homeless veterans to the local Stand Down, the local event was able to serve 178 veterans and 2 homeless community members, 7 families including 5 children. Social Service agencies from Ross, Pickaway, Fayette and Fairfield counties all participated to inform and educate participants about services and housing options available in the area. A meal was provided to everyone in attendance by the Ross County Veterans Council. On September 11, 2010 the Fairfield County Housing Coalition held a collection for hygiene items at the Lancaster Walmart, which allowed them to donate 108 bags full of products to giveaway to the homeless at the Stand Down event. Fifteen community organizations participated in this event.
Multiple departments at the VA Medical Center provided applications and referrals to services and programs on site. Nursing student s from Pickaway Ross Vocational School performed vital signs and referred veterans to on site HIV testing and foot checks for veterans. Information on housing programs offered through the Chillicothe VA was available as well as applications for housing services.
Planning for next year's event is already under way to ensure that rural homeless veterans and the homeless in southeast Ohio communities have the opportunity to experience Stand Down. This event was a success in every sense, for the participants, staff, volunteers and the community. Stand Down will be an annual event as we strive "to put veteran first" and to end homelessness in the next five years.