"Stand Down 2011" comes to the state Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday with as many as 1,000 veterans expected to attend. The annual event works to help any veteran who is homeless or in need of assistance.
“We are No. 1 in the nation for veterans attending Stand Down,” said Linda Schwarz, commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “We do a very large outreach and our outreach gets better every year.”
Part of the outreach is to eradicate homelessness among veterans, Schwartz said.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, of the nearly 76,000 homeless veterans, more than 400 are in Connecticut. This means there is much work to be done, Schwartz said. And so the one-day event serves to highlight veterans’ needs as well as get their lives back on track.
During the day veterans can get information about various state and federal benefits, employment assistance from numerous veterans organizations, and legal advice. Some veterans need help in getting their drivers’ licenses restored so they can apply for a job.
“In 1992 I went and worked at a Stand Down in San Diego. I came back and we started it here in Connecticut,” Schwartz said. “I think the payoff is that you see lives literally transformed in a day. You are watching people leave with a better life.”
Also, veterans can avail themselves of medical and dental and oral cancer screenings.
“Stand Down is a great way to go to one location and have access to all kinds of information and professionals,” said state Sen. Carlo Leone, a Democrat representing Stamford and Darien in the 27th Senate District who co-chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee. “It’s one stop shopping for veterans."
During the day veterans can get information about various state and federal benefits, employment assistance from numerous veterans organizations and legal advice. Also, veterans can avail themselves of medical and dental screenings.
“Our veterans have given so much for us, the least we can do is provide them with clothes to wear, simple amenities, and other modest donations. In tough times we sometimes forget how lucky we are, and don’t fully appreciate the people that fought to give us the chance to be so lucky,” said state Rep. James Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District.
Some of the veterans expected on Friday are just returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Others served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the first Gulf War. No matter, organizations such as Homes for the Brave will be on site to assist.
“It gives us an opportunity to showcase our transitional housing program and vocational assistance services that we have to offer. The event allows us to outreach to any veteran that is in need of housing,” said Joy Kiss, CEO of Applied Behavior Rehabilitation Institute, Inc. and Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport.
Homes for the Brave, which has participated in Stand Down for the past several years, has helped more than 600 male veterans.
“We are acutely aware that many people are just one paycheck away from going homeless,” Schwarz said.
Indeed, about 1.5 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless because of poverty, lack of support, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
For younger veterans coming home there is a lot more awareness and general information for coming home. Many of these veterans need help with their resumes and interviewing skills. And so representatives from the Connecticut Department of Labor will be on hand to help in job searches during the day.
“It gives them a chance to get themselves back on track. And there is more of a sense of urgency now because greater numbers of veterans are coming back from on going conflicts,” Leone said.
Free transportation for veterans will be available from pick-up locations around the state, including Bridgeport, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwich, and Stamford. Veterans or their advocates can pre-register or learn more by calling 860-616-3801 or visiting www.ct.gov/ctva. However, preregistration isn’t required to attend.