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Stand Downs: VA and Partners Helping Homeless Vets

Homeless Veterans pick out new clothes from boxes in a large room

Stand Downs are collaborative events between VA and other agencies which serve homeless Veterans.

by Hans Petersen, VA staff writer
Monday, September 23, 2013

Stand Downs are one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to provide services to homeless Veterans.

Stand Downs are one to three day events providing health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment. Stand Downs are collaborative events coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies and community agencies which serve homeless Veterans.

Seventeen VA Medical Centers will host a VA Homeless Stand Down in late September. More than 6,700 homeless or at risk Veterans are expected to attend these events. Expected attendance ranges from 80 Veterans in Minot, N.D. to 3,000 in Compton, Calif.

The first Stand Down was organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam Veterans in San Diego, Calif. Since then, Stand Downs have been used as an effective tool in reaching out to homeless Veterans.

Stand Downs are held by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with many community agencies in an effort to reach and provide service to homeless Veterans.

The total number of Veterans served during 2012 Stand Downs was 49,791, an eight percent increase from the 45,957 Veterans served at 2011 Stand Downs.

Of these individuals, 45,789 (92 percent) were male Veterans and 4,002 (9 percent) were female Veterans. In addition, 7,460 spouses/companions and 3,202 children of Veterans attended for a total of 60,453 Veterans and family members served.

According to Robert Hallett, National Director, Health Care for Homeless Veterans, “Contrary to common belief, Stand Downs are not VA programs per se. VA does not have any ownership or proprietary relationship over them. They are intended to be collaborative events coordinated between VA medical centers, other government agencies and community agencies which serve homeless Veterans.

The total number of Veterans served during 2012 Stand Downs was 49,791.

“In addition to this coordination role, staff from local VA facilities typically provide volunteer support for local Stand Downs particularly in health screening, triage and services, mental health assessments and referrals and increasingly, screening and referrals for housing placements.”

Stand Downs are successful because of volunteers. More than 31,450 volunteers supported Stand Downs during 2012.

Stand Down coordinators offer a wide range of services to homeless Veterans with the most common services including: housing, personal care kit distribution, job training, mental health care, and Veteran benefits.

Sleeping arrangements are made available to homeless Veterans at many sites with multiple-day Stand Downs.

In 2009, President Barack H. Obama and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. According to a 2012 Point-in-Time Estimate of Homelessness, homelessness among Veterans has declined 17.2 percent since 2009.

Hallett adds, “Homeless Veteran Stand Downs not only serve as an entry portal for Veterans in need as we seek to eliminate Veteran homelessness. They also represent a true example of our VA program staff and community partners working hand-in-hand to ensure basic needs and assistance are available to our most vulnerable and disenfranchised homeless Veterans.”