Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
VA, Community Partner to House Homeless Veterans
The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System (EOVAHCS) and community partners held a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans on Sept. 19 at First Baptist Church in Tulsa, which provided services to 290 Veterans and 142 non-Veterans who are either homeless or currently in the process of receiving permanent housing assistance.
Those who attended had the opportunity to receive food, clothing, haircuts, health screenings, flu vaccine, laundry/showers, learn about employment resources, enroll for VA health care and receive help filing claims for VA benefits
However, the primary goal of the Stand Down was to match homeless Veterans with housing assistance from programs such as the Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, Barrier Removal and Residence Exchange for Veterans (BRRX) and Homes, Honor and Health for Oklahomans (H3Ok) initiative.
“When a Veteran registers for the event today, we ask them specifically ‘are you working with anyone who is helping you find a place to live,’” said Melanie Goldman, EOVAHCS Homeless/Compensated Work Therapy Program Manager. “We have a special squad that is working to match homeless Veterans with agencies that are able to help house them.”
One of those Veterans was Army Veteran Garry Moubray who attended the Stand Down in the hope of finding a permanent place to live.
“I came in today because my homeless situation is getting a little worse,” said Moubray. “I got with the (BRRX) program and they’re planning on hooking me up with somebody. I have an appointment next week. It’s also good to have new boots.”
A total of 317 volunteers donated their time to serve those in need such as Paula Mathews, an instructor for Clary Sage College, who gave free haircuts.
“When they get out of the chair and they’re smiling, it’s well worth it,” said Mathews. “It’s always fun giving back to the community and it’s something that Clary Sage does every year”
Heather McKibben, a Rating Veterans Service Representative at the Muskogee VA Regional Office, volunteered her time by passing out sweatshirts, hats and gloves.
“I enjoy giving back to Veterans,” said McKibben, a Marine Veteran. “They’ve done enough for us and I feel like we should give back to them.”
Army Veteran Linda London, who is receiving treatment at 12 and 12 Inc., a residential treatment center for alcohol and substance abuse, attended the Stand Down and said she was grateful that so many donated their time to serve Veterans in need.
“I think it’s wonderful that they help us Veterans,” said London. “It really touches my heart that people care about us.”
The Stand Down is a vital part of Tulsa’s commitment to the Zero:2016 initiative, a national campaign to end veteran homelessness by Dec. 31, 2015 and chronic homelessness by Dec. 31, 2016. EOVHCS is one of 24 organizations in Tulsa that have partnered for Zero: 2016, which has the goal to provide housing for every homeless Veteran.
“The Zero:2016 campaign has been key in educating the public about what homelessness looks like, what homelessness means and how the community as a whole can help,” said Goldman. “Zero:2016 has supported the Stand Down and has helped us get the word out to not only the Veterans in need but also the community and how they can support the Veterans in need.”
A total of 33 community partners participated in the Stand Down which included 12 & 12, Inc., Asbury Military Connection, Barrier Removal and Residence Exchange for Veterans, City of Tulsa, Clary Sage College, Coffee Bunker, Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa, Community Voice Mail, Department of Human Services, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Disabled American Veterans, Family & Children’s Services, First Baptist Church Tulsa, Goodwill, GI Wishes, Hope Testing Clinic, Indian Health Care Resource Center, Iron Gate, John 3:16, Legal Aid Services, Mental Health Association Oklahoma, Night Light Tulsa, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Oklahoma Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Ticket to Work, Workforce Tulsa, Vet Center, OU Nursing, U.S. Navy Reserve, KI BOIS, Visiting Nurse Association and Volunteers of America.