Forward Observer — Their American Dream is Homelessness?

One Way You Can Help Your Homeless Veterans Locally – Find Them, Gather Them

LVMAC Poster Art 2005Not all who are homeless deserve their circumstance. Good families are affected nowadays. We of the Lehigh Valley are a hardy people, but living on the streets or in pioneer camps should not be our final option. It is an unfortunate reality nonetheless.

Pioneer Camp (courtesy of Clinic Valor Foundation)It seems doubly a shame for our community when one who has honorably served and actually fought for his or her country is found in such a condition. Whether it is this veteran’s pride or behavior, or a combination of both, that has led to the situation should not matter to us – we can always find a plausible excuse for inaction.

As the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC) activates its new Lehigh Valley Homeless Veterans Action Committee to attack veteran’s homelessness as a regional problem, one of its participants is already trying to get those in the most extreme of circumstances in from the “cold.”  VALOR Clinic Foundation, a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit now working its way down from the Bangor area into the wider Lehigh Valley, has taken up the mission of establishing routine stand downs in the Lehigh Valley.

What is a stand down?  It stems from a military term meaning relaxation from a state of readiness or alert, and it is sometimes used in the context of refitting a military unit.  It is this latter context that the term is applied to the homeless veterans as a group.  The operating principle is to induce them to gather by offers of clothing, shoes, cold weather gear, sleeping bags, tents, food, haircuts, medical care, etc.  All is done in an effort to ensure their survival, but ultimately to gain the trust needed to assess, counsel and assist in deeper and ultimately more meaningful ways – ending their homelessness whenever possible.

Ironically, considering the size of its veterans population, only a handful of communities in Pennsylvania conduct these stand downs – Philadelphia’s being the ultimate model.

VALOR Clinic Foundation intends to address this shortfall and has added a new twist to it. Its volunteers are willing to render help to homeless nonveterans at these events as well. It believes getting to the street homeless veteran depends upon establishing word of it throughout the street homeless community.  In effect, the homeless served become ambassadors to homeless veterans yet to be reached.

Their program is both simple and worthwhile; and several organizations have already risen to its appeal for assistance.  More are needed.

Clinc Valor Foundation Stand Down 15 Feb 2013 FlyerWhile their flyer is useful in telling the “what, when and where” of the upcoming mini-stand down on 15 February in the parking lot of the Allentown VA Clinic (setting the stage for a larger event later this spring), it fails to mention their greatest need.

VALOR Clinic Foundation needs your support in finding and possibly transporting the homeless and, in particular – from our frame of reference – homeless veterans.  Remember this is a regional effort not limited to those who dwell in Allentown.  The location of this event gives their need added significance.  Grassroots, inter-organizational cooperation is necessary to make it a success.

BOTTOM LINE: If you know of homeless people, whether they be in camps, sleeping on a stoop or “couch surfing” in your home or apartment, contact Bob Rapp at (484) 357-0600 or masherrapp@verizon.netIf your organization can serve as a collection point or can identify one – or assist in providing or finding transportation – do so. Many nonprofits cater to the homeless and are natural collection points.  Police who patrol the streets know where the homeless are.  Indeed, if you have contacts with the local police departments and other public officials, please ask them to assist, to include providing transport when possible.

With time and persistence, Lehigh Valley Stand Downs could develop into remarkably useful events in addressing the plight of the homeless if we all pull together.  The mini-stand down on 15 February should be the start, not the end.  VALOR Clinic Foundation needs to encouraged and assisted.  Get off your own couch and attack the bottom line.

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RJH
As of 29 January 2014

Last Updated:  31 January (VALOR Clinic Foundation name error corrected)

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