Veterans Stand Down and Health Fair aids in returning to mainstream

Published 1:36 pm Saturday, October 20, 2018

By Krista Chandler

The Orange Leader


Lewis-Harris will be on the front line helping homeless veterans “stand down” – that is, take a break – on Nov. 9 at Orange Church of God located at 1907 North 16th Street in Orange.

The Stand Down is aimed at assisting homeless veterans to reenter mainstream life in Orange County, as well as aid any veteran or homeless person who may need additional resources.

The event will provide basic items like clothing, a hot meal, a sack lunch, a haircut, hygiene kits, and housing information. Bigger picture resources on hand will include representatives from organizations like the American Red Cross, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and more, plus legal assistance, medical and mental health screenings, substance abuse treatment information and more.

On which resource is the most valuable of all, Harris said it would be hard to tell since each homeless veteran could greatly benefit from one while another could even go back to mainstream with the help a completely different one.

As Harris, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Readjustment Counseling Service at the Jefferson County Vet Center, explained, the term “stand down” was created when soldiers on the front line would cycle out for rest and recuperation.

“Now we use it as a term referring to homeless veterans because being homeless is a battle,” Harris said. “We’re hopefully moving them out of the battle and into mainstream life, and for people who we don’t, we’re at least giving them a rest here.”

While he doesn’t have exact numbers on homeless veterans in Orange, Harris said this year, due to the devastation caused by Harvey, “we want to be there for the whole community. This year we’re doing our best to assist the entire community to get back on their feet.”

Harris said being a part of the VA and specifically working on the “Stand Down” for homeless veterans hits close to home for him because, at one point in his life, he was a homeless veteran as well.

“I’ve been homeless before, I know how difficult it can be to get back into the mainstream of life,” he explained. “If it wouldn’t have been for those resources, I wouldn’t be back in the mainstream.”

“People don’t understand that people are not homeless because they want to be but because of situations that have occurred,” Harris added. “If they don’t get help, they can’t come back into mainstream life.”

The resources that will be offered at the Veterans Stand Down and Health Fair are what Harris and his local colleagues feel will be two-fold – either getting homeless veterans back into the mainstream or at least providing tools to be productive and start getting there.

“We want to get the message out to those in need so they can come to get assistance,” he said. “We do this because it needs to be done, and if you can help one person a day, make a person feel good for one day, then you’re doing good.”

For more information on the upcoming Stand Down in Orange, call the Jefferson County Veterans Center at (409) 347-0124.