The annual “stand down” to assist homeless veterans is set for Saturday at a day shelter for the homeless in Macon.
The event, in its fifth year, will be at the Daybreak shelter at 174 Walnut St. from 8 a.m. until noon. It was at the Macon Coliseum last year.
The event is put on by the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin in cooperation with many community groups. The Coliseum was its third location because it had been growing every year.
Organizers thought that might be its permanent home because it provided plenty of space, but Daybreak offered an opportunity to reach more homeless veterans, said Sister Katie Norris, the director of the shelter.
“Many of the people we would be targeting are already coming to Daybreak,” Norris said.
The VA is also sending vehicles to locations in Macon where homeless veterans are known to stay.
Homeless veterans, as well as other veterans who may be struggling, can get information about organizations that may be able to help them.
They can learn about employment, legal aid, education opportunities, housing and health benefits.
They can also get free food, hygiene products, health screenings and haircuts. VA staff will be on hand to explain veterans’ benefits.
Norris said a wide range of issues can lead a veteran to become homeless, including unemployment, divorce, substance abuse and others. Often, she said, it can be a combination of factors.
“It can be a perfect storm at times,” she said.
The “stand down” concept was developed during the Vietnam War to offer returning veterans a safe retreat to unwind and be with other service members, an event news release stated.
“It’s important that we ensure our homeless veterans that they will be safe and that we are here to help,” Nicole Sanders, the Dublin VA homeless program coordinator, said in the release. “Many of them suffer from mental health conditions that may make them suspicious of others’ motives, so gaining their trust is crucial.”
The event has typically drawn about 300 veterans. Sanders said that while the Coliseum offered plenty of space last year, not many of the veterans who came were homeless. She said she is hopeful that by having the event at Daybreak, it will reach more of the target audience of the event.
For more information about the event contact Sanders at Nicole.Sanders3@va.gov or 478-272-1210 extension 2122. Information about VA resources for homeless veterans is available at www.va.gov/homeless or call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).