Hosting a Stand Down Event for Homeless Veterans

Abstract

Stand Downs seek to address veteran homelessness through one- to three-day events that provide services such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, Veterans Administration (VA) and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other services (e.g., health care, housing, employment, and substance abuse treatment). Stand Downs are collaborative events coordinated between community agencies that serve the homeless, local VAs, and other government agencies. This practice offers five steps to planning a Stand Down in your community.

Issue:

According to a count in January 2011, 67,495 veterans were homeless in the United States; and an estimated 144,842 veterans had spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in a recent year ("About the Initiative," 2013).

Action:

Stand Downs are collaborative events coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies, and community agencies serving the homeless. Below are five steps for planning a Stand Down in your community.

Identify local veterans' needs

To plan a Stand Down, get more information about the Homeless Veterans Initiative and contact your local homeless veterans coordinator. Also contact local social service agencies that may already be providing some service for people who have served in the military. The veterans coordinator and social services will be able to let you know the most pressing needs facing homeless vets in your community.

Organize a team to plan

Recruit professionals and volunteers that can coordinate to plan and implement a successful event. A successful group effort requires a motivated team that can agree on clearly defined tasks, set reachable goals, and act with inspiration and purpose.

Remember to post your project so that people in your area can join the effort as volunteers; and engage community members, local organizations, and businesses in providing financial and/or in-kind support for your event or activities.

See a sample step-by-step Stand Down manual on how to develop and implement the event.

Implement the project

On the day of your event, in addition to information listed in the above manual:

  • Make sure project leaders or coordinators are at the site early, ready to greet team members and participants as they arrive.
  • Officially welcome everyone and talk about the purpose of the event, focusing on topics like learning from each other, moving toward a brighter future, and serving in honor of veterans.
  • Organize volunteers into different work teams. For example, have some people greeting and directing participants, some handing out refreshments, some responding to questions, and others working one-on-one with veterans. Let your event determine the necessary tasks/teams.
  • Conduct your event or activities and offer continuous encouragement to all participants.
  • Make time for reflection with participants and volunteers.

Reflect on the project

After the project is completed, take some time to assess and reflect on it with your partners. Think about what went well and what could be improved.

  • Host an official debrief meeting for team members after the service day.
  • Examine the goals you set and consider which were met, exceeded, or not quite reached.
  • Who did your work impact? What did you accomplish? What were your impressions of the day?
  • Ask everyone for their honest assessment of what went well and how to improve for next time.
  • Make a list and plan for any ongoing follow-up.

Share your story

Inspire others to organize an event assisting veterans by sharing what you accomplished. Share your service story.

Outcome:

Stand Downs have been used as an effective tool in reaching out to homeless veterans since 1988. Between 1994 and 2000, more than 200,000 veterans and their family members were reached through Stand Down events ("Stand Down," 2013). In 2008, more than 30,000 veterans and 4,500 families received outreach services from Stand Downs aided by 24,500 volunteers (United We Serve, 2010).

For more information:

Related Resources: 

Stand Down: A Step-by-Step Procedural Manual

Citations: 

Corporation for National and Community Service. (2012). Host a stand down event for homeless veterans. Retrieved from http://mlkday.gov/plan/actionguides/standdownevent.php

United We Serve. (2010). Tips: Serving America's veterans. Retrieved fromhttp://www.serve.gov/toolkits/veterans/four.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Homeless veterans: About the initiative. Retrieved January 10, 2013, fromhttp://www.va.gov/homeless/about_the_initiative.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Homeless veterans: Stand down. Retrieved January 10, 2013, fromhttp://www.va.gov/homeless/standdown.asp

 


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