Some 250 veterans from throughout the region attended Stand Down 2015 last Friday in Lowell, calling attention to the issue of homelessness among veterans and providing supplies and services to the veterans .
The event was hosted by the City of Lowell, the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center in Haverhill and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (the Bedford VA).
Stand Downs are collaborative events held nationally, coordinated between the VA and community-based homeless service providers, said Robert Cook, public affairs officer for the Bedford VA.
The Stand Down began with a ceremony on the steps of Lowell Memorial Auditorium, featuring the University of Massachusetts ROTC color guard and the Lowell High School Singers performing the National Anthem.
Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliot commended the Bedford VA, city officials and the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center for hosting the Stand Down in Lowell, and encouraged the nation to make veterans its highest priority.
“We should want to serve our veterans after they have done so much for us,” Elliot said.
Bedford VA Hospital Director Christine Croteau reminded those in attendance that homeless and at-risk veterans do not fit any stereotype and are often the people we would least suspect of being affected by those issues.
“Stand Down represents one of many ways Bedford VA wants to serve our veterans better than they have ever been served before,” said Croteau.
John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center of Haverhill, and his staff greeted veterans at registration, provided breakfast and lunch and organized and distributed donations of clothing and supplies. They also supplied supportive services for veterans and families through case management on site.
Veterans also received shelter referrals, health screenings and VA and Social Security benefits counseling.
Bedford VA buses later transported interested veterans to the Bedford VA campus to participate in specialized workshops and to camp overnight, followed by breakfast to start Day 2 of the Stand Down.