Agency reaches out to homeless veterans
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2012
5/11/12 at 5:34 AM
It was difficult to ask for help, but Steve Wilson knew he needed it.
Wilson had joined the Navy in 1976, just after leaving Charles Page High School. After his service, he was able to live well for a while, but alcohol became too much of a part of his life.
He couldn't hold a job or relationships, and eventually he came back to Tulsa with nothing more than what was on his back.
He discovered the services to which he was entitled through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he is now living sober, has a job and is turning his life around.
"That was the beginning of it all - of getting my life on track again," Wilson said.
While they work with the homeless population on a weekly basis, local VA employees will gather Saturday to provide a wide variety of resources to homeless veterans, all in one place.
Stand Down for Homeless Veterans is part of the VA's effort to combat and eventually end homelessness in the veterans population.
"The purpose is to get out into the community and serve vets within the community as opposed to them coming to us," said Melanie Goldman, a homeless program manager in the Tulsa VA office. "This is supposed to be a one-stop shop to get all the resources they need to get back on their feet."
This is the second such event to be held in Tulsa. Last year's Stand Down drew about 130 veterans seeking the VA's services, Goldman said.
Stand Down events have been held in Sand Springs in the fall for the past 10 years, she said.
The veterans will be able to get a meal, a health check, clothing, haircuts, information on the VA's housing programs and even job interviews.
VA employees will be there to check their veteran status, either with their VA card or their discharge papers. If a veteran doesn't have those papers, VA employees can help them get started with receiving those benefits.
In the afternoon, the event will open up to anyone who needs help.
Wilson said he started receiving help from the VA in 2005.
"At first I just went there for my medical benefits," he said. "I wasn't aware of all the other programs they had."
Now with a steady job and a steady place to live, he is more confident and feels like his life is on a better track.
But he knows other veterans are out there who also need to ask for help, and the VA can be what starts them on that path.
"It just instills a little bit of hope that there are things out there for them and there are people out there willing to get them back on their feet," Goldman said. "Homelessness is such a lonely existence, and this helps them realize there are people out there who want to help them."
Stand Down for Homeless Veterans
When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: First Baptist Church, 424 S. Detroit Ave.
Who: The event will be open only to veterans between 8 and 11:30 a.m.
Original Print Headline: Veterans Affairs event to take a stand for homeless veterans
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310