The Salem VA Medical Center teamed up with several other community organizations on November 7 at the Salem Civic Center to assist more than 130 homeless Veterans in the Roanoke Valley. The event was the 8th annual Stand Down for Homeless Vets at the Salem Civic Center, and was deemed a success by the organizers, sponsors and Veterans alike.
“Stand down is a military term that means we back the troops up and give them a little R&R,” said Harry White, Veteran’s employment representative with the Virginia Employment Commission, and the event organizer. “This is a chance for them to get some food, clothing and information about the services available to them.”
Many of the Veterans said the free food and clothes were the best part of the day, but some of them were looking farther into the future.
“This is very informative,” said Thomas R. Fowler Jr., a 65-year-old Air Force Veteran. “Every table has contacts to things you may need one day. It’s not all about food and clothes. Everybody is in one centralized place, and that doesn’t happen that often.”
About a dozen organizations were on hand to offer help and encouragement to the Veterans. The Salem VAMC’s Rural Health Team was giving health screenings and flu shots, Virginia Western Community College was helping the Veterans find funding for education, the Lions Club was giving vision tests and referrals for free eye exams and free glasses if needed.
Despite the impending flu season, only 22 Veterans took advantage of the vaccine, but that doesn’t mean the Rural Health Team was left out. As Lorna Oldson, Rural Health Team RN (Nurse Educator) put it, “The blood pressure test was a lot more popular than the flu shot.”
The Lions Club screened 32 Veterans for eye problems and referred 12 of them to a local eye doctor, where they will have a more thorough exam and be fitted for some free glasses.
There was no doubt the services and sponsors were appreciated, but the clothing stole the show. Every Veteran was given a chance to walk through a room filled with winter coats, new shoes and boots, underwear and blue jeans, and pick out some new clothes. On their way out they were also handed a new backpack filled with toiletries such as hand sanitizer, soap and shaving cream.
White said the event could not have been nearly as successful if it weren’t for the “amazing outpouring of support” from the community, and he was “very grateful.”