VA Boston Stand Down 2011: Treating Invisible Wounds

Volunteers come together to donate time, services or goods to Massachusetts Veterans.


Volunteers come together to donate time, services or goods to Massachusetts Veterans.

As you reach into your pocket, you stop and think, “she’ll just waste the money on booze or drugs,” so you cross the street, only to find that the homeless are on street corners in every city and in every state across America. An ever increasing portion of the homeless and at-risk, are America’s Veterans. Exactly what happened to these Veterans and more importantly, what are we doing to help them? That question is something VA Boston Healthcare System is working hard to answer every day through research and outreach. Outreach programs such as   Stand Down 2011, held in Dorchester last week.

Each year, for the past 20 years, VA Boston Healthcare System, in conjunction with local, state, federal and community organizations, offers services to Boston’s homeless Veterans in a judgment-free zone.

A military practice during times of war, Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. Today’s Stand Down affords the same opportunity to Boston’s homeless Veterans. It helps Veterans who, on any given night, in any city, literally exist on the streets. Stand Down brings the homeless Veteran population together in one location, for one to three days, and gives them access to resources such as: personal care supplies, clothing, ID, HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis C screening, eye and dental care, VA benefits counseling, Social Security, Food Stamps, local health and human services such as counseling/recovery groups, legal, employment, housing, spiritual services and activities to empower the homeless.

Vietnam Vet James R. stated, “It’s a time for community to connect with the homeless Veteran population and address the issues that affect each and every state in this country.”  Rita Mienscow, a VA Boston employee and return volunteer said, “I walk away feeling so blessed for having helped and Veterans walk away knowing they haven’t been forgotten, and that America cares.”

The hand up — not a handout — philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through hours of work by hundreds of volunteers from VA Boston Healthcare System, the Volunteers of America Organization and community volunteers. Homeless Veteran, Carly B. states “The fact they bring it all at once, saves me time in getting what I need, I can’t make it without help our here,” she said.

The fact is, many homeless Veterans from past and recent combat conflicts suffer years of chronic or recurring readjustment issues when returning from service. Stand Down 2011 and the Boston VA are tirelessly committed to finding answers for our Veterans, and working toward restoring their lives. Michael M. Lawson, Director, Boston Healthcare System summed it up, “We are committed to caring for our Veterans so the land of the free, remains the home of our brave.”

For more information contact Gloria-Anne Vieira (857) 364-2717


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