Veterans Get "One Stop Shopping" At Annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Some extra assistance was provided to homeless vets in Augusta Saturday at the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down.

"The truth is is that there shouldn't be a link between a veteran and the word homeless," explained Timothy Walter, volunteer at this years Homeless Veteran Stand Down.

Currently, there are over 100 veterans in Maine that do not have a place to call home.

That's why the annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down at Togus Veterans Hospital is so crucial for those who are literally homeless or living in transitional housing.

"We take veterans that are in the street, in encampments, in their vehicles, and in shelters and we take them out of that day of being homeless and bring them into Togus to meet with our community providers, VA staff and volunteers for an entire day of services and resources," said Susie Whittington of the Homeless Veterans Program.

This is the 20th year for the Stand Down, which allows vets to "Stand Down" from homelessness.

And that all starts with hard-working folks like Susie Whittington who makes events like this possible.

"I get to see lives changed and that keeps me going everyday. I get to come to work and I get to make a difference. So days are harder than others. Sometimes it take a long time. Sometimes a veteran is not ready and it may be years before they're ready for us to help and to house them, but that's what we do," explained Whittington.

According to the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, 51 communities and three states have put an end to veteran homelessness.

And for the more than 30 organizations represented at the stand down, they're hopeful that Maine will one day be able to say that as well.

"It's about working with our communities because that's where out veterans end up living. They don't live in the VA. They live in our communities and so really everybody here as prioritized that our veterans have served and that our priority is to serve them."

The staff at Togus Medical Center provides more than clothing, food, and free haircuts.

They also provide outreach, which many say is just as important.

"A lot of them also come here hoping that a door will open to place them in a better spot in their life," said Walter.

Timothy Walter has been a part of Togus for more than 25 years, but this is his first "Stand Down," and he says after seeing what he saw Saturday, he knows that they're taking the right steps in ending a complex problem.

"I love it when they thank me for my service, but we receive a certain amount of "thank you's, but not enough activity, not enough hands-on with us and that's what a lot of us need. We need someone to take us under their wing." explained Walter.

To learn more about available resources for Veterans and their families contact the Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services at 207-430-6035 or visit their website, www.maine.gov/veterans.