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Stand Down, For What?

Jocelyn Moya
ENF Programs Assistant
 
Stand down for veterans, that’s what! For those of you who are unfamiliar, a stand down is an event where community organizations come together for one or several days to provide supplies and services to homeless veterans. Stand downs vary from place to place but often include items such as clothing, food, basic necessities, and services or referrals to services such as medical treatment, housing, or job training. You can find a list of some of the stand downs happening across the country here, www.va.gov/homeless/events.asp. On Tuesday, I—alongside my Elks Family—was lucky enough to take part in one of these great events.
I had never participated in a stand down before so I had no idea what to expect. I was honestly imagining a much smaller event with about a 1/3 of the number of people. When we walked in at 11:00 a.m. the Humboldt Park Armory was packed full of veterans waiting to receive supplies and services. I spoke to several veterans who told me they had been waiting in line since 8:00 a.m. and didn’t reach the table that I was at until 12:30 p.m. Though they had to wait in line for an extended period of time, they were rewarded with bags full of much needed hygiene supplies, army grade duffel bags, sleeping bags, heating pads, and many more items necessary for enduring homelessness. The luckiest ones even received coats and boots. In a city where, according to the Volunteers of America Illinois, approximately 1,000 veterans are homeless on any night—nearly 700 homeless veterans received supplies and a warm meal.

While it definitely felt rewarding to be a part of something that benefited so many people, the best part was seeing first-hand that these individuals were receiving the services and items they needed. But, the most impressive part was how they were able to carry all of the supplies out—most had two bags full of items! It must be all of that military training they received.


After my experiences today, I encourage you all to take this Veterans Remembrance Month to think about how you can benefit your local community of veterans not just on one day or one month but throughout the year. Honoring veterans is a good cause, but serving them can be even greater. Your Lodge’s community may not have 1,000 homeless veterans, but there are likely veterans in need dealing with issues such as unemployment, being a military family, physical and mental health concerns, or lack of educational support. Need ideas on how you can help local veterans or how you can use Lodge Grants to benefit veterans? Visit enf.elks.org/vets for more information!

Jocelyn Moya
ENF Programs Assistant

The Elks National Foundation allocated $9.77 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs in Elks communities through Beacon, Gratitude, Promise and Impact Grants. These grants offer Lodges opportunities to serve the community in ways that will raise the Lodge’s profile, energize the membership, encourage former members to return to the fold, and gain the notice of people who want to be part of an organization that’s doing great things. To learn more about the Community Investments Program, please visit www.elks.org/enf/community.  


Comments

  1. Great post, Jocelyn. A couple of things.

    First, the name Stand Down is a military term meaning to relax from a state of alert or readiness in a secure base camp. In this context, the homeless vets are "coming in" to receive needed supplies and services.

    The connotation is important because it helps us understand one of the biggest challenges when it comes to serving homeless veterans--finding them. As I write, there are social workers and volunteers out there searching for homeless vets in shelters, but time and resources can be used much more efficiently if the vets can be motivated to return to base camp.

    Second, just wanted to get in there that the Foundation recently pledged $4 million over four years to help end the scourge of homelessness among the veteran population.

    Everyone agrees that the words homeless and veteran shouldn't go together. The fact that they do isn't a government problem, it's an American problem. We all have to work together to fix it. In January, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission will announce how the Elks fit into fixing the problem, along with concrete things that our members can do to help.

    In the meantime, we're trying to educate people about the problem. To that end, I encourage everyone reading this to check out the web page at http://www.elks.org/vets/welcomehome.cfm. While there, be sure to watch the brand-new film One Last Stand: The Fight against Homelessness.

    Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete

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