One homeless vet is one too many, according to Angela Beaugard, Metro Community Development’s Vice President of Development and a veteran advocate.
There are lots in Michigan, where the number of homeless vets tops 5,200.
A local group behind the Veterans Stand Down event hopes to change that by helping match local veterans to resources. This year’s event, which takes place at Catholic Charities Center for Hope (Flint) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 7, will showcase resources from VA benefits, healthcare, dental, housing, employment, education, legal and family services to counseling services and more.
While the Stand Down event is among critical outreach initiatives, it is only part of efforts to reduce homelessness and other significant issues impacting area vets, according to Beaugard whose employer is the lead agency of a larger group of community advocates collectively operating under the banner of the Flint and Genesee County Continuum of Care.
The body of service providers meet weekly to identify veterans experiencing housing instability and develop individual pathways to address participant’s individual challenges. The group serves nearly 300 veterans.
This is not a one-size-fits all type of program. The process is unique and highly personal, Beaugard says.
“And, it’s working,” says Beaugard. “Many veterans are not familiar with the depth and breadth of programs that are available to them. Our group helps to remedy that.”
In the last year alone, the Flint and Genesee County Continuum of Care coalition moved 34 veterans off the homeless list, whittling number of homeless vets from 45 to 11. Beaugard says this success is encouraging.
“There is no reason a person who willingly laid down their life in service for our country should not have a safe place to lay their heads,” says Beaugard.
There are many reasons people find themselves homeless, according to Beaugard, who says untreated mental health and transportation issues are among the barriers that contribute to housing insecurity.
“Our group is buoyed by our success to date. Our ability to move 34 people off the homeless list is an indicator that we have the ability, resources and talent to eradicate (veteran) homelessness in Flint and Genesee County,” she says.
The ability to navigate the community to find resources is daunting, according to Beaugard So having a resource fair where all the identified partners are in one place and available to service multiple needs is a huge benefit to participants.
Showers, hygiene supplies, clothing, food and haircuts will also be provided at the event.
“Like any one of us, when your basic needs are not met, it is hard to focus on anything else. We know that from a practical standpoint, if you’re telling me something and I can’t hear you because my stomach is growling louder than your voice, my ability to concentrate and comprehend will be affected.”
Some vets opt out of resources or they may wish to relocate, perhaps if they have family in another area. If this is the case, the Flint and Genesee County Continuum of Care may be able to assist them with relocation as a means of stabilizing their housing situation.
“You have some severe situations in which the vet is actually more comfortable being homeless and sleeping outside. They are not prepared to navigate into a shelter environment. We respect their rights. We are there to assist them in what their plan is, without pushing our plan..”
Beaugard says the event is about the work veterans have done and telling them we won’t forget their service.
“Oftentimes what we hear is they feel lost, feel forgotten or as though they don’t matter,” she says.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness and honor those that have served and increase participation among numerous vendors. It’s a chance for agencies and entities to engage as resources to help resolve the situation.
Catholic Charities; the venue at which the event takes place, hosts a warming center in the winter months many vets feel comfortable in.
Debra Hayes, executive director of My Brother’s Keeper, has spearheaded the work group committee. Hayes had the idea to offer a tour of Flint on the day of the event.
Mass Transportation Authority CEO Ed Benning stepped-up and offered a complimentary bus to support the tour.
“We want other counties to see the positive things Genesee County is doing so they can continue to feel good about the resources they are bringing to Genesee County. This is the VA administration that’s coming. The head of the hospital from Ann Arbor is going to be one of the guest speakers,” Hayes says.
New shoes and socks and captioned phones for the hearing impaired will be some of the items veterans can apply for or receive at the Stand Down. Massages will also be available.
“The chiropractor that does the massages wanted to do massages to pamper the veterans and let them know they are cared about. The vendors at the tables want to serve veterans because veterans served us. It will help the veterans feel good about themselves,” Hayes says.
There will be live music played from each branch of the military.
“As soon as he hits one string of one song, that group of military veterans stands up. They can be all over the room, but they know their song. Last year I was in tears. When those things happen and you bring back all these positive things for these veterans, it’s showing the veterans we really do care.”
To help support this event, My Brother’s Keeper is a drop off spot for everything from clothing to furniture. Donations can be also shared at Catholic Charities; the host spot.
For details, call Debra Hayes at 810-234-1163 or 810-471-0996. To register as a vendor, send request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Veterans will need to bring their DD-214 or VA I.D. card to the event taking place on Friday, June 7 at Catholic Charities Center for Hope on 812 Root Street in Flint. The event runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Veterans Stand Down work group members include:
Angela Beaugard, Metro Community Development
Eduardo Calzada, Genesee Health Systems
Jeffrey A. Cook, Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services
Shawn Dowling, Veterans Administration (VA)
Michelle Edwards, Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)
Tiffani M. Ferrier, Family Promise Director
Stacy Ferguson, Saginaw Veterans Administration (VA)
Carrie Fortune, HUD
Bruce Freimark, Michigan Veterans Association
Athena Gardner, Shelter of Flint
Debra Hayes, My Brothers Keeper
Renisha Houston, Veterans of Now
Tracey Jackson, Metro Community Development
E. McClelland, New Paths
Kevin Miller, City of Flint
Gabriel Parra, Veterans Administration (VA)
Julie Pirtle, Metro Community Development
Scott Richardson, Oakland Livingston Human Services
Liz Ruedinger, Shelter of Flint
Ashley Seeback, Flint Odyssey House
Dan Savoie, Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services
Elizabeth Stamp, Veterans Administration (VA)
Katherine Stanley, Legal Services of Eastern Michigan
Mike Striler, Training and Treatment Innovations
Alysa Wamsler, Training and Treatment Innovation
Angela Willie, Carriage Town Ministries
Kasie Nickel-White, University of Michigan
Rayetta Wyatt, State of Michigan Veteran Affairs