For soldiers returning from service, the stand-down is an opportunity for a reprieve from combat situations. Yet, for many veterans—especially homeless veterans—day-to-day living is still a life-threatening struggle. Veteran stand-downs across the nation are a way to get veterans the help they deserve to receive.
The Southwest Oklahoma tribes—along with the VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center and other agencies—are sponsoring the second annual Inter-Tribal Veterans Stand-Down from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday October 16 at the Cheyenne-Arapaho Community Center, 2015 Dog Patch Road in Clinton, Oklahoma. The event will offer a range of services that include both physical and mental health care, housing, vocational rehabilitation, flu shots and employment services. Free haircuts and a winter weather clothing room are also offered.
According to a press release issued by the VA, all veterans will be serviced and a copy of the DD 214 form is encouraged. Widows who attend are also encouraged to have their spouse’s DD 214, as well as a marriage license and death certificate (if applicable).
The sponsoring tribes include the Cheyenne-Arapaho Nation; Delaware Nation; Caddo Nation; Kiowa Tribe; Comanche Nation; Fort Sill Apache Tribe; Apache Tribe of Oklahoma; and the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. At last year’s inaugural event, nearly 200 veterans were helped, including 37 female Native veterans and 17 military widows.
This year’s stand-down will expand its efforts toward Native homeless veterans. According to Jessica Jacobsen, the VA deputy director for the Dallas Regional Office of Public Affairs, the stand-down will “hopefully encourage [homeless veterans] to accept services necessary to help get them into temporary shelter (if needed), into permanent housing (if that is what they need), to connect them with agencies and services that can help in their transition from homeless or near homelessness and to help prevent any Native Veteran who appears to be on the verge of becoming homeless, before it happens.”
Courtesy Oklahoma Veteran Affairs
A veteran receives computer help at the 2014 Inter-Tribal Veterans Stand-Down event.
At the stand-down, emphasis will also be placed on pairing both tribal and non-tribal organizations and agencies with veterans. Jacobsen said this helps tribal representatives “have a new resource they can use for a Veteran who may come to their office seeking help,” she said, “and it helps the non-Native vendor, because they now know and understand how the tribal programs work.”
The latest statistics from the Department of Housing and Urban Development are from January 2014. The numbers for homeless for all populations is 578,424. Out of these counted homeless people, 49,933 are reported veterans, with 4,722—under 10 percent—being female veterans. The VA stated that there is no official data yet that specifies how many homeless veterans are Native American.
Tribes throughout the country have been offering stand-down programs to reach out to veterans in recent years. This year alone, stand-down services have been offered by the White Earth and Leech Lake Ojibwe.
Yet, one does not have to be an employee of a tribe or veterans’ agency to help a homeless veteran. Volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter are some of the more traditional ways of service. Other methods are to see if a city or town is a part of the First Lady-initiated Mayor’s Challenge program. Some ways, though, are as easy as walking up to a veteran and offering a phone number.
“It can be as simple as knowing the toll free number [1-800-827-1000] and giving that to homeless Veterans to help them connect with resources and help,” Jacobsen stated.