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Atlanta VA Medical Center hosts ‘Stand Down’

Saturday’s event provides services to homeless veterans

As part of a national drive to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center will hold a “Stand Down” event for veterans and their families Saturday.

It will take place at the medical center, located at 1670 Clairmont Road, from 7:30 a.m., until 3:30 p.m., according to Greg Kendall, public affairs officer with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It will feature U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel Will Gunn, who is scheduled to speak.

Kendall noted that the occasion will involve more than 40 community and government agencies providing legal assistance, Social Security benefits information, housing and employment assistance, help with driver’s and vehicle licenses, and free haircuts.

“It’s one location providing much-needed services for our homeless veterans,” said James Clark, director of the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Our goal is to get them into housing. We want them to use the resources here to help themselves.”

Kendall said Veterans Affairs is changing from a program focused on temporary, shelter-based services, to homelessness prevention, employment, permanent housing and help to families and veterans at risk of becoming homeless. This year, the department expects to spend $3.4 billion to provide health care to homeless veterans, and $800 million on specialized homeless programs.

The public affairs officer said the department chose Atlanta as one of 28 locations to spearhead the mission, in keeping with President Barack Obama’s vision to honor and support service men and women.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has established a priority goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Kendall said that roughly 149,000 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in 2009.

He said that — in addition to providing housing, employment and health-care services to veterans who are homeless — the department’s campaign aims to prevent homelessness by connecting veterans and their families with support, before they lose their housing.

Kendall said veterans can gain access to services for the aforementioned issues by contacting the Veterans Affairs National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).