American Legion Auxiliary - February 2013
HOW TO PLAN A HEALTH FAIR FOR HOMELESS VETERANS 10 STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL ONE-DAY STAND DOWN According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 100,000 homeless veterans on the streets on any given night. A stand down is a grassroots effort to help homeless veterans by offering a hand up, not a handout through a one- to three-day event concentrated on food, shelter, clothing, health, benefits counseling, and/or job counseling services. Since homelessness ages an individual approximately 20 years beyond his/her actual age, health fairs offer focused, much needed help through services that can include health care screenings and care services, vision and dental care or referrals, VA benefits counseling, governmental benefits counseling or referrals (Social Security, food stamps, etc.), substance abuse counseling, and mental health counseling or referrals. Additional services can include foot care, shoes, and socks. The best way to get started planning for a stand down is to download the National Stand Down Program Guide at http://www.nchv.org/images/uploads/Stand%20Down%20Guide.pdf. Be sure to check out Wisconsin Unit 53’s success story on page 18. GET READY… PLANNING AND PREPARATION 1. After you’ve downloaded the program guide, visit www.va.gov/homeless to see if a stand down is already planned for your area. If so, consider volunteering at this event before planning your own. 2. Approach the Homeless Outreach office at the VA Medical Center in your area, and tell them your unit is planning a stand down. Ask for the approximate number of homeless veterans in your area. 3. Determine when and where you would like to host the event. Consider your climate when deciding to have the event. If you are planning to host it outside, find a large, open space that is cost-effective to rent, or ask a local church or school to host the event for free. 4. Secure any necessary permits. 5. Contact other homeless centers and food banks in your area to spread the word about the upcoming stand down to other homeless or at-risk veterans in the community. SET… ASSEMBLING YOUR TEAM 6. After seeing what services your VA Medical Center can provide, contact local community health agencies so you can provide as many free services as possible: Health Services – contact the community outreach program of a large local hospital, medical schools, and the local health department. Vision Care – Not all veterans are eligible for vision benefits at the VAMC, so call eye care professionals in your area to see if anyone is willing to donate his or her time. Dental Care – Contact a local college or university; many have dental programs with students who need to practice on a certain number of patients before they can graduate. Social Security and Food Stamps – contact the respective local offices. • The VA can offer information on VA benefits, substance abuse, and housing services. • Invite your American Legion post to provide useful information, like how veterans can obtain a copy of their DD-214. GO! DAY OF EVENT DETAILS 7. Be sure to have adequate signage onsite to make it easy for veterans to find you. 8. Prepare to serve lunch to the veterans. Ask a restaurant or caterer to donate food. One option is to bring a large grill and serve hamburgers or hot dogs. 9. Have Legion Family members volunteer at the event; they should have nametags and wear Legion Family attire if possible. It is recommended that Legionnaires volunteer at the stand down, as veterans often enjoy spending time with other veterans. Additional volunteers can include local JROTC units. 10. Put your public relations team to work! Download and submit the most current Stand Down Information Form at http://www.nchv.org/images/uploads/Stand_Down_Information_Form.pdf to be listed in their database of stand down events. Secure local newspaper, radio, and television media coverage to create community awareness and compassion for veteran homelessness.
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