Hampton VA Medical Center
Help for Homeless Veterans
From haircuts to food to help filing disability claims, nearly 200 homeless Veterans received help during a homeless stand down held Nov. 16 at the Y. H. Thomas Community Center in Hampton, Va. The event, co-sponsored by the Hampton VA Medical Center (VAMC) and the Military Affairs Committee from the city of Hampton, brought together over 150 volunteers to help homeless Veterans.
Stand Down is a military term used during active war to say the soldier will "stand down" from action to get a hot meal, haircut, and clean clothing. The term was adopted for Veterans during the first Homeless Veteran Stand Down organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam Veterans in San Diego, Ca. Since then, Stand Downs have been used as an effective method helping homeless Veterans across the nation connect to resources they desperately need.
“I am really impressed with the number of volunteers who are here to help homeless Veterans,” said Mike Dunfee, medical center director. “Collaborations like these are critical to helping Veterans find the resources that are available to help them.”
The event helped not only the traditional homeless - those who truly have no roof over their head - but Veterans who are staying with friends, family or in a hotel. "We've got a wide variety of homeless Veterans here," said Marti Chick-Ebey, homeless coordinator for the Hampton VAMC.
Several Veterans were admitted to the domiciliary program at the medical center. Many others received free meals and picked-up donated winter clothing. One Veteran at the stand down was Robert Hartley, 43, a Navy Veteran who moved to the Hampton Roads area five weeks earlier. Hartley only had enough money to make the trip cross county on his old Harley Davidson motorcycle.
With no job and no money, Hartley found himself staying on the sofa at a former girlfriend’s house. Hartley’s girlfriend urged him to call the Veteran Homeless Hotline where he was connected with Chick-Ebey. “During the initial call with Mr. Hartley, I asked him lots of questions about his finances and where he was living,” said Chick-Ebey. “Mr. Hartley told me that he filed a disability claim three years ago when he lived in Phoenix, Ariz. To my surprise, when I checked the system, I saw that his claim had been adjudicated and he was rated 40 percent disabled. I made a few calls to my contacts at the Veterans Benefits Administration and found out they tried to send him his disability check back pay that totaled over $13,000 and it was returned because he had moved.”
“I literally don’t know what I would have done without the VA” said Hartley. “When I contacted the Hampton VA, they found out that my claim had been approved and a check was waiting for me for me - that was two days ago.” Hartley’s advice was for Veterans - talk to everyone you can, check every resource possible and sooner or later you’ll find the right help. There is help for people limping through life and we are grateful for the help I am getting from the staff at the Hampton VAMC.