By Kendle Walters
For Nevada’s homeless veterans, getting to take a hot shower or have their hair cut is a luxury. Talking to a counselor, connecting with a support group, or seeking advice from a lawyer, are often services that are far out of reach. For many Las Vegas veterans who suffer from the isolating conditions of homelessness, an event like Las Vegas Stand Down can offer hope and resources that are unavailable to them on the streets.
The 9th Annual Las Vegas Stand Down took place at the East Las Vegas Senior Community Center on March 21, 2012. The United States Veterans Initiative describes the event as a “grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help homeless veterans combat life on the streets.”
Veterans had the opportunity to receive hot meals, clothing, food, haircuts, hygiene items, housing and legal assistance. Employment resources and Veterans Affairs medical benefit services were also available.
Being able to give back to Nevada’s homeless veterans is what the event aimed to accomplish.
A makeshift store, sponsored by Goodwill of Southern Nevada, had racks of clothing, non-perishable food items, and hygiene products so the veterans could “shop” for free. There were even pet supplies available for the veterans’ furry companions.
“The veterans being served were there for us when our country called; now they need us,” said Shalimar Cabrera, Chairperson of the Veterans Stand Down in a March 19, press release for the event.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimate there are about 67,000 veterans nationwide who don’t have a place to call home.
The 2011 Southern Nevada Homeless Census and Survey offers hope through numbers for Nevada’s homeless veteran population. With approximately 1350 homeless veterans in Clark County, the outlook is still a lot better than in 2009, when there were over 2660 veterans reported homeless. There is still progress to be made to get those numbers closer to zero, and events like Las Vegas Stand Down are doing their part to contribute.
This year, the Veterans Stand Down was funded entirely though community donations. Some of the top sponsors for the event included, Care For Our Veterans 2012, Ron Virtue and John Jaworek Trust and Generous Friends, U.S. Veterans Initiative, Jewish War Veterans Post 65, Humana, Goodwill of Southern Nevada, 707 Management, and Greenspun-Radin Jewish War Veterans Post 21.
While Las Vegas has made progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans, there are still many veterans in the United States who are in danger of becoming homeless.
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans states there are approximately 1.5 million veterans who are at risk for homelessness due to lack of support networks, poverty, and poor living conditions in substandard or overcrowded housing.
“The Forgotten Americans-Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve,” released Dec. 8, 1999, by the U.S. Interagency Council on the Homeless (USICH) – is the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients. The findings indicate that most homeless veterans reside in urban areas with nearly half needing help finding a job and over a third seeking housing assistance.
USICH cites that 23% of the national homeless population consists of veterans and 33% of the male homeless population have served their country, the majority dedicating over three years of service. Only five percent of the veteran homeless population consists of women. Eighty-nine percent of homeless veterans have been honorably discharged.
According to the U.S. Vets, the 2011 Las Vegas Veterans Stand Down helped over 570 homeless and at-risk veterans during last year’s event. With over 100 service providers at the 2012 Las Vegas Stand Down, hundreds more homeless and at-risk veterans were able to get the attention and help they deserve.
To help with future events like Las Vegas Stand Down and to contribute to the homeless veterans of Las Vegas, contact U.S. Vets Las Vegas at 525 East Bonanza, Las Vegas, NV 89101 or email: [email protected].