by Shawn Nowlin
Salem native Allen Roberts believes that no individual that spent time in the military should be living on the streets. Virginia Employment Commission representative John Passmore is one of countless others who also shares that belief.
To help combat the issue of veteran homelessness, Total Action for Progress (TAP) and Salem VA hosted its Annual Stand Down Event November 15 at the Salem Civic Center. Among the resources that were available to the approximately 125 veterans that showed up included: classes on Hep C and smoking, financial education information and job opportunities.
“The primary purpose of the Annual Stand Down Event is to link vets at risk for homelessness and low-income veterans to needed housing and community resources,” event coordinator Tanyia Jones said. “I think it’s important to give our Veterans the tools, skills, knowledge and resources they need to maintain and sustain permanent housing. Everyone, especially a veteran, deserves a place to call home.”
Part of Sean Adkins’ job as TAP’s Community Financial Resources Coordinator is to connect veterans with affordable dental care. “With transportation being an issue for many of them, it can be hard to get in contact with or even know about the countless organizations available,” he said. “72 percent of clients in TAP’s Veterans program are now employed and nearly 100 percent of the homeless veteran families we work with have found secure housing. Anyone who needs our services can find out more at tapintohope.org.”
Walter Buckland isn’t just an Air Force Veteran. He is also a former high school teacher and says young people regularly ask him for advice about the military. “I tell them that I didn’t love everything that I had to do, but it was still some of the best years of my life,” he said. “I encourage anyone who is considering joining the military to do as much research as possible before making a decision.”
As soon as the doors opened at the Salem Civic Center, Justin Smith was there. While waiting in line to get some food, he noticed some familiar faces. “It turned out to be some of the men I served in the Navy with,” he said. “It felt terrific to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
A grant from the Department of Labor has funded the Annual Stand Down Event since it started several years ago.
“Through this program we are able to provide a clothes closet for Veterans that offers new coats, boots, hats, gloves, toiletries and bus passes,” said Tammy-Lee St. Clair, TAP Operations Manager. “I love greeting the veterans as they enter the room to get what they needed. I also love walking around and hearing about their memories in the service.”
“When I think about veterans, it conjures up images of generations of the strongest men and women in our country,” Adkins added. “They truly are the very backbone of our culture, families and society.”