MONTGOMERY, Ala. — James Holmes sat at a table eating lunch at the Alabama State Farmer’s Market after readdressing the maintenance of his post-traumatic stress disorder at a stand down that provided services to veterans.
“It is hard to find stability in a meaningful pursuit,” he said of his needs. “It hinders us. I was destined to come here.”
Holmes joined about 195 veterans Wednesday as the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System this week conducts a Homeless Veterans Stand Down, offering services to homeless veterans such as crisis counseling, health care information, dental exams, haircuts and even manicures.
Today is the last day of the three-day stand down, and there will be a distribution of items, including sleeping bags and boots.
“The is an opportunity to give veterans medical, mental health, housing, education and counseling information,” said Holmes, a Vietnam vet. “I have a couple of health ailments that needed to be addressed.
“There has to be a shining ray of hope for all of us, no matter where we came from. They’re here to ignite that flame for the vets who served. We were in the midst of trauma. We don’t need ambiguous ideas of trying to beat the system.”
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, about 195 homeless veterans were served.
Tuesday they even received free haircuts and manicures, while Wednesday focused on educational outreach, homeless shelter information and help with social security claims.
The biggest draw is expected today because of the distribution of supplies such as sleeping bags and boots, said Tyrinda Caver, coordinator of the CAVHCS’ Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program.
“We want to educate them on the VA homeless programs and services, and also on our community partners,” she said of the annual outreach event. “Our numbers grow each year as we try to do a better job of getting the word out about our services.
“We have a lot of veterans who are aware of the VA, but a lot of people have recently lost their jobs and are unable to work because of healthcare concerns,” she added. “We try to see that they are educated about the opportunities the VA has for them.”
Founded in San Diego in 1988, Stand Down was started with the goal of fostering belief in the triumph of the human spirit over extraordinary odds, according to the Veterans Village of San Diego. It grew out of a conviction that the overwhelming number of homeless veterans on the streets of America is unacceptable, and that the veteran community itself must respond.
It is an intervention that was conceived from the ground up specifically for veterans, by veterans, according to the group.
“This is where the knowledge is,” veteran Charles Rogers said Wednesday. “I came out here because this is the right place to be today. This is helping people. It has people helping with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and shelters are helping out.”
Among those shelters are those north on Interstate 85, such as the House of Restoration in Phenix City.
The shelter is filled to capacity with 20 men and eight women, kept full with veterans from the VA Hospital.
There are several programs at the shelter, said its case manager Karen Stone, including life skills and spiritual training.
Charles Dansby attended Wednesday’s stand down to learn how to further his education. He wants to study communications, and currently works at the information desk at the VA Hospital in Montgomery through an Intensive Therapy program, which he said helps veterans get back on their feet.
“I want to give back to the VA Hospital,” he said upon completing his education.