Battle Creek VA Medical Center participated in a Veteran Stand Down at the Kent County Veterans Services location September 7, 2023, providing assistance to nearly 165 Veterans in the region.
The ‘Stand Down’ began in times of war where exhausted combat units, requiring time to rest and recover, were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. Once there, they were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, and receive medical and dental care.
Current Veteran Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events during which VA staff and volunteers provide food, clothing and health screenings to homeless and at-risk Veterans. This recent Stand Down also brough out Social Work Services, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, and VA enrollment representatives from Battle Creek Health Administration.
"The mission of the VA would not be successful without the support of our community partners, especially the Homeless program. The VA can be a difficult system to navigate at times but with the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration and community resources engaged in the community, that helps bridge a gap for our Veterans," said Stephen Dotts, Assistant Director at VA Battle Creek Health Center.
During the event held at Kent County, Veterans received referrals for health care, housing solutions, employment information, substance use treatment resources, mental health counseling options and other essential services.
“I feel across the board, inside the VA and outside the VA that for whatever reason, veterans simply don’t always know what is available to them,” said Reginald Farrior, County Veterans Service Officer for Kent County, Michigan. “It takes events like Stand Downs to build the veterans confidence, addressing misinformation, providing education and building a rapport.”
Many of the Veterans who attended the stand down received duffel bags filled with donated goods such as clothing, boots, basic hygiene materials, and various comfort items. Community partners, Non-Veteran Agencies along with various Veteran programs came together to collect and package these items for local Veterans.
“I think today’s event was very successful and we owe much of that to the community partners, state and federal resources, numerous service officers, and the Kent County Veteran Services who helped organize the event,” said Dotts.
Nationally, Veteran homelessness is down an estimated 11 percent from 2020 and more than 55 percent since 2010, according to the 2022 Point-in-Time Count by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“My personal hope is that Veterans begin to tell their story, engage with the public, and they continue to build rapports with people and agencies who want to help them,” says Farrior, “and events such as Stand Downs serve as milestones of resiliency for people who served our country and are struggling.”
The next three local Veteran Stand Down’s are scheduled for: September 15th, at The Salvation Army location on 1700 S. Burdick Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49001, at the Berrien County Health Department at 2149 East Napier, in Benton Harbor, Michigan on September 22nd, and again at the VanDyke Mortgage Convention Center at 460 W. Western Ave., Muskegon, MI 49440. All other future Stand Downs can be found at: https://www.va.gov/homeless/events.asp