The Veterans Affairs Hospital in Charleston has teamed up with Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina to fight against homelessness for the 10th annual Stand Down Against Homelessness, specifically geared toward the homeless veterans. About 35 percent of homeless people in America have served in the military, and are now homeless. VA spokesperson Tonya Lobbestael explains what Thursday and Friday’s event is all about.
“This is outreach to the community. It’s open to everyone, for people who are homeless or people who are in need. We are offering food, clothing, job assistance, legal counseling, medical screenings and care, flu shots are going to be given, and just a wealth of services, as well as an opportunities for veterans to come and enroll for their medical care and other homeless services through the Department of Veteran Affairs,” says Lobbestael.
This is the tenth year for the event, and Lobbestael says she has seen success.
“Oh my goodness, Stand Down has grown tremendously through the years. When we first started ten years ago we saw maybe two to three hundred people. Last year, in 2008 we served over 1,900 homeless and persons in need right here in the local Charleston area. And, this year with the economy being in the state that it’s in and the high unemployment rate in the state, we are expecting to serve over 2,000 people,” says Lobbestael.
Lobbestael says they are focusing on bring these persons back to a productive life.
“We’re not just trying to put a band-aid on homelessness here, although the immediate needs are very important; the food, the clothing, we have to get them the basics. But, what we are really striving to do is there are so many people who are unemployed or underemployed, they don’t have enough food to feed their families, we’re trying to reach out this population and get them to the services such as the ones that the VA and Goodwill offer that can return them to productive lives,” says Lobbestael.
Lobbestael explains why the high number of homeless persons are veterans: “Things that may had seen in battle, or they may have started some substance abuse, there may have been underlying mental health issues that they weren’t aware of and then they went on to active duty and may have went on to some hot spots and that could have compounded some things for them. So, there are really a number of reasons. Part of it too could be the transition out of the military,” says Lobbestael.
It’s reasons like these Lobbestael says they want to fight against homelessness and help these veterans get back on their feet. The event is held at Armory Park in North Charleston from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday.