OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On Friday, an estimated 200 low income and homeless veterans will receive services, care and supplies during the annual “Sooner Stand Down,” a partnership between human service organizations and the Oklahoma VA Health Care System.
The Stand Down will be held September 7 from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Homeless Alliance’s WestTown Homeless Resource Campus in Oklahoma City, 1724 N.W. 4th Street.
Veterans will have access to barbers, vision, dental, mental health and primary health care services. Additional services such as housing, employment, legal, spiritual and substance abuse counseling also will be available. Veterans can receive personal hygiene kits, hot meals, sack lunches and bottled water.
“The Sooner Stand Down allows us to give back to veterans who sacrificed so much for us by providing them with the resources they need in one central location,” said Christine Cleary, Stand Down coordinator and Healthcare for Homeless Veterans social worker with the VA Health Care System in Oklahoma City. “This year, as with years past, we will have the privilege to house many homeless veterans the day of Stand Down.”
The term “Stand Down” originated during WWI when soldiers were pulled back from the trenches for physical and mental respite.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are more than 39,000 homeless veterans on any given night in the United States. In Oklahoma City, 121 homeless veterans were counted during the one-night census in January. Last year, 190 veterans were served at the Oklahoma City Stand Down.
In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all people who are homeless, a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
In addition to the services that are provided every year at the Stand Down, organizers plan to house several homeless veterans on the day of the event with the goal of housing 40 veterans this month.
“The community continues to make progress in housing veterans,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance. “As a community, we’ve been housing an average of 10-20 veterans each month. With all of the community support we get on the day of the Stand Down, our goal is to house 40 veterans in the month of September.”
Organizations including the VA Health Care System, Homeless Alliance, Goodwill, Mental Health Association Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Housing Authority, Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency and Red Rock Behavioral Health Services agreed to work together to meet the housing goal.
The VA, along with the Homeless Alliance and more than 30 other nonprofit, faith-based and government agencies, are working together in an effort called Journey Home OKC to house all homeless veterans and people who are chronically homeless in Oklahoma City.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, chronic homelessness is defined as someone with a qualifying disability who has been homeless for more than one year or four times during the course of three years where those occasions cumulatively total at least 12 months.
Since launching Journey Home OKC in January 2015, the group has housed 753 veterans and 462 people who were chronically homeless, two sub-populations that advocates say are typically more challenging to house.
“We are really optimistic about our community’s ability to continue housing veterans,” said Straughan. “The Oklahoma City Housing Authority and Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency have been great partners and stepped-up to make sure we can move people off the streets.”
The Journey Home OKC group currently has 215 veterans on their list of people in need of housing, and they are working to get a better understanding of the number of veterans who are falling into homelessness.
“Unfortunately, if we are housing 20 veterans each month, but more than 20 new veterans are becoming homeless every month, it makes it hard to reach the zero mark,” Straughan added. “It’s an ongoing battle, but one that is worth fighting. Everyone deserves a home.”
The event, which is being sponsored by Boeing, is expected to draw veterans from several communities around the state.
“At Boeing, not only are we proud to support the men and women of our armed forces on the front lines, we are also here to support their recovery and rehabilitation,” said Anthony Lounsbery, USMC veteran and Boeing Oklahoma City CFO. “The Sooner Stand Down is a perfect example of the community coming together to help homeless veterans get back on their feet, and we’re honored to partner in this effort.”
Service and healthcare agencies that are participating in the Stand Down include the VA Health Care System, Veteran Benefits Administration, Oklahoma State Department of Veterans Affairs, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, American Red Cross, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Social Security Administration, the Homeless Alliance, City Care, Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, Workforce Oklahoma, Francis Tuttle, Goodwill Industries SSVF, KiBois SSVF, Upward Bound, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Upward Transitions, Legal Aid, Oklahoma City Housing Authority, HUD/SPONAP, Taxpayer Advocates, Red Rock Behavioral Health Services, OKC Indian Clinic, OKC Vet Center, North Care, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, D-Dent, OU College of Nursing, Catholic Charities, Delaware Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Jesus House, Heartline 2-1-1, Lottie House Drop-In Center, En Root Barber Shop, Healing Hands, Our Lord’s Lutheran Church, Gracemont Methodist Church, American Legion Posts, VFW Ladies Auxiliary, BHGE, Soldiers Angels, Veterans Task Force, DAR Samuel King Chapter, The Oklahoma National Guard. Service organizations from all across the state will be providing donations and volunteer labor.
For more information about how to help, call the Homeless Alliance at 405-415-8410 or visit homelessalliance.org. To learn more call Christine Cleary with the VA Health Care System at 405-456-1710.
Update: The Oklahoma Caring Foundation is partnering with the Oklahoma Dental Foundation to reveal the new dental van this Friday at 10 a.m. at the Homeless Alliance’s Sooner Stand Down veteran event.