HOUSTON- If you were in MacGregor Park on Friday, you might’ve thought it was Veterans’ Day, and it sorta was. A thousand veterans converged on the southeast Houston park for the Houston VA’s annual Stand Down.
The Annual Stand Down, sponsored by the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, provides homeless veterans and those at risk with the opportunity to access a broad spectrum of services in one convenient location and to create a plan to transition out of homelessness permanently.
“We have legal service, jobs to offer them, we also have flu shots, medical care, anything that anyone needs in life we have it here for them," said Robert Dembo of Veterans Affairs in the Mayor’s Office.
The event brought a wide range of specialized resources together to provide homeless veterans with comprehensive medical and psycho-social services. Veterans were provided clean clothes, health screenings and a hot meal. Rapid HIV testing was available to veterans along with VA and Social Security benefits. Counseling, legal aid, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment, and substance abuse treatment from a variety of community agencies was also made available.
“The best thing about an event like this is it helps the community, it helps veterans, and it does us a lot of good, like grooming, to help our esteem to look good and everything. So it’s very beneficial,” said veteran Ronnie McQuieter.
Jerry Wallace, an Air Force veteran came because he needs help.
“I need support. I need legal services, I'm to the point where I'm homeless. I need the whole gamut. I’m kind of in a storm right now and I’ve never been in a storm like this one before,” he said.
He’s not alone. Lazaro Seriale was once a homeless vet until Stand Down changed his life.
“I used it to my benefit and I’m now a VA employee that assists homeless veterans get the same help that I got,” he said.
Army Vet Leon Hill, Jr. thinks the Stand Down is a great program, “There’s so much knowledge and opportunity available. Why would a vet not take advantage of it?”
“Houston is a pot of gold when it comes to helping veterans; homeless veterans," Seriale added.
And who better to receive that gold than the folks who put their lives on the lines for us?
We salute you all! Stand strong!
Click here to find out more information about VA’s homeless programs in Houston.