‘Operation Stand Down’ Helps Veterans Access Social Services

Stand Down events are held nationwide, though this is the first one in Monroe County.

Monroe County held its first annual Stand Down event to reach out to homeless veterans Thursday.

Veterans groups are collaborating with social service agencies in an attempt to address the disproportionate number of veterans facing homelessness. The VA Stand Down at the American Legion offered veterans health screenings and help finding employment. Maryjane McNabb of the HUD-VASH veterans housing program says the goal of the event is to show veterans they have support.

“You know they have a lot of pride for what they did for their country and feel that they shouldn’t need to ask for help,” she says. “But we try to meet them where they are so that we can get them the support that they need.”

McNabb estimates between 10 and 20 percent of homeless people are veterans.

Joseph Couillard is an Army vet who has been helped by the Veterans Affair Supportive Housing Program for homeless vets. He says it’s not surprising that veterans of all kinds end up struggling to reintegrate into society.

“I have an advanced education,” he explains. “I’ve lived and or worked in about 44 countries as an international lawyer. I have had it made several times in my life, and yet I end up homeless. What I see in that is this could happen to anyone. And once you fall out of one of these systems, it takes money to get back in.”

Stand Down events are held nationwide, though this is the first one in Monroe County. Other Stand Down events will be held in Indianapolis, Kokomo, Ft. Wayne, and Lafayette this fall.

WTIU’s SHAMEKA NEELY REPORTS:

Organizations came together Thursday to assist those who fought for their country and now need assistance themselves.

The first Bloomington Stand down event held at the American Legion, helped veterans like Joseph Couillard a retired commanding office of the bomb squad in the U.S. Army. He received an advanced degree and served as an international lawyer for 35 years. Looking back he says he never thought about being homeless.

“I’ve had it made several times in my life and yet I end up homeless and it could happen to anyone,” he says. Couillard claims that once fallen out of the system it takes money to get back in.

The event today offered veterans the opportunity to get assistance with such things as, VA benefits, haircuts, and medical attention.

Social Worker, Maryjane McNabb says Bloomington is home to 35 veterans, who are enrolled in a special housing program through HUD-VASH. “They have a lot of pride for what they did with their country and feel they shouldn’t need to ask for help, but we try to meet them where they are,” McNabb says.

Agencies gathered today with the same mission to give them extra support veterans needed. Civilians are not the only people who are struggling. A welder for 20 years and victim of the economic times has made it hard for some get back work.

Navy Veteran John York wants people to know that he’s proud to have served his country, and appreciates help from congress, but times are tough. “People think that because they go into the service and we receive training we don’t need help,” York says. “But, when the economy isn’t going well we are victims of the circumstances just like everyone else,” he adds.

Veterans make up almost 13% of the U.S. population.

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