ENDING HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS AT WINTERHAVEN
When you’re in the military, much of your time is spent in the field. Service members look forward to that brief period following their return when they get some time to shower, clean their clothes, get a hair cut, and just relax. It’s called a “stand down.”
When the Department of Veterans Affairs started hosting stand downs for homeless veterans a couple of decades ago, it was the intention to welcome veterans in from the streets to get a shower, hair cut, and clean clothes. Over the years stand downs have evolved somewhat, but took a major leap forward 3 years ago at Winterhaven, DC’s stand down, when housing became a primary concern.
I attended my first Winterhaven meeting in 2009. After finding out that 300 veterans were expected to attend, I wondered why we would allow any of those veterans to return to the streets. So I asked the question. That same year we created a wing just for housing services, along with the goal to make sure that no veteran attending Winterhaven be forced to return to the streets. That meant offering housing options from emergency shelter to permanent supportive housing for those experiencing any and all stages of homelessness.