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Stand Down For Homeless Veterans

It is time now for Stand Down 2013 and we are asking for your donations again.  San Jouquin Stand Down 2009 was a great success, serving 1,198 Veterans.
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Section I: Organizing a Stand Down

Veteran service organizations and homeless veteran activists around the country have organized over a thousand Stand Downs since 1988, implemented with the assistance of hundreds of service providers and thousands of volunteers. The success of your Stand Down hinges upon its effective organization, built around the practice of a coordinated community effort. In this effort, individuals, organizations and government agencies create and strengthen community partnerships to maximize homeless veterans’ access to a variety of resources to address identified needs.

  1. Provide homeless veterans immediate relief from the trauma and isolation of homelessness. Create an environment where basic necessities are provided and participants can come together in a safe and relaxed atmosphere.
  2. Provide homeless veterans access to short-term resources. Ensure that participants have easy access to basic needs during the event, including shelter, beds, food, showers, clothing and haircuts.
  3. Provide homeless veterans access to long-term resources and providers. Give participants the opportunity to begin drug and alcohol recovery, get medical and dental treatment, receive employment counseling and referrals, access social services information, deal with legal matters, etc.
  4. Raise community awareness about homelessness (particularly homeless veterans). Encourage participation of elected officials in Stand Down. Increase media coverage and dialogue on homeless veteran issues.
  5. Replicate the Stand Down event in other areas. Bring in service providers from other areas to observe and participate in a Stand Down so they can use that experience to launch a program in their communities.
  6. Develop longer-term solutions to address the needs of homeless veterans. Involve as many service providers and volunteers in your Stand Down event as possible, and use that collaboration to develop an assistance network in your community.

Ingredients Critical to Stand Down Success

Planning your first Stand Down can take a year or longer. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter difficulties along the way. Perseverance is key to raising the level of community awareness and building a foundation of community support for this event. You also need to be flexible. Planning volunteer-organized events often involves facing unanticipated obstacles or challenges, and you may need to do some quick thinking or make changes along the way.

A high level of community awareness and commitment is vital to the success of a Stand Down and should be identified as a principal goal throughout the planning process. Strong leadership from the initial planning stages is essential to achieving this objective. Grassroots veterans groups or service organizations often serve in leadership roles during the planning process. Local Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies also successfully provide leadership.

Raising community awareness and commitment requires an accurate needs assessment for homeless veterans within the community, as well as an assessment of community capacity and available resources. This information will help you determine the appropriate length and service demands of your event (refer to “Section II: Classification of Stand Down Events”).

Effective planning should be based on the completed needs assessment. Effective planning includes organization of the event, coordination of efforts, and creation of an information clearinghouse that serves as a liaison to the public and that can help ensure delivery of a consistent message for the project.

10 Steps to Organizing Stand Down Events

The steps outlined below provide a brief introduction to the fundamentals of organizing an event. (See Vietnam Veterans of San Diego’s “Stand Down Guide” for detailed guidance on organizing and implementing a Stand Down). Note that these steps often overlap or are undertaken simultaneously. Also, certain steps are meant to be initiated early and carried out throughout the organization process.

  1. Begin by identifying leadership for the planning process. Efforts to plan an event generally begin with individuals who are familiar with Stand Down, whether through observing a Stand Down elsewhere or by watching a VVSD Stand Down video. It is important that one or two people are selected to be involved in a leadership role throughout the planning stages and event implementation. Think about targeting community-based veteran service providers, local VVA chapter or other veteran service organizations in your area, or your local DVA office to identify individuals who could fill this role. You could also consult your local County Veterans Service Officer to identify strong, active veteran advocates in the area.
  2. Once leadership has been established, assess the need for a Stand Down in your community. Assess the number and needs of homeless veterans in your area. Check with County Veterans Service Officer, your local DVA and other local government agencies for statistical information. Check with local shelters and homeless service providers to determine the resources most frequently accessed or requested. Do outreach to homeless veterans on the street to get their input to determine the services that are accessed and desired.
  3. Gauge community support for a Stand Down. It is necessary that a community understand what a Stand Down is before you ask for support. Organize group briefings or Stand Down video screenings for broad community representation, including elected officials, service providers, media and others. You may find that these events also provide an opportunity for you to identify individuals who are interested in participating on the steering committee (see step 4).
  4. Identify major service providers and other community leaders and form a Steering Committee that meets regularly to provide direction and oversight throughout the planning process. The committee typically includes leaders of important local organizations, businesses and key players who have personal connections that may assist in accessing resources and building community support. The steering committee works closely with the lead agency (see step 6) and regularly conducts general service provider meetings. Stand Down has been declared a priority by many Veteran Service Organizations, so consider tapping these agencies for advocates who are eager to participate and who understand veterans’ issues.
  5. Determine the scope of the event and set the date. Determine number of days, service providers, volunteers needed, what food and housing will be provided, and the number of homeless veterans and their families that you can accommodate. You will have to consider local government restrictions, fire and health codes, site capacity, accessibility, security, and the resources available to support the event. When setting the date, consider weather (the mild season is best), availability of volunteers and service providers, and the needs of site owners, service providers and volunteers.
  6. Establish a lead agency and information center at least six months before you would like to hold the event. Ideally, this agency is one that works directly with homeless veterans on a daily basis and has an understanding of homeless veterans’ issues. Although the lead agency will work closely with the steering committee (agency personnel may serve as key committee members), the agency holds primary responsibility for organizing and implementing the Stand Down. An information center should be organized early on, through which personnel will prepare and distribute print materials, respond to questions and keep records of participating service providers and volunteers.
  7. Once you have completed an assessment of services needed, understand what resources will be available for the event, and have established leadership, you can begin working to locate potential Stand Down sites. The type of event to be held is the first factor to consider in determining an appropriate site. Many other factors must also be considered, including site accessibility, security, identification controls, acceptance by surrounding community, indoor or outdoor location and costs.
  8. Develop a preliminary budget and think about materials needed, based on the services you want to provide. Remember, your goal is to plan and implement this event through donations of time, goods and services. Fundraising and donation solicitation are crucial to offsetting certain core costs. Military organizations often provide much of the necessary equipment (tents, cots, trucks, medical equipment, etc.). They may also provide the core labor for site set-up and tear-down, as well as ensure site security. Think about contacting veteran service organizations and government agencies for donations and assistance. Be creative. Get ideas by talking to individuals who have raised funds and donations for Stand Downs in other areas.
  9. Coordinate program and logistics planning and consider key services to be provided at the event. Strategize the planning of the event program and logistics. This can be done in a variety of ways. VVSD in San Diego has identified two individuals from the steering committee to serve as program and logistics directors. The two positions work closely to plan each day’s events. A program director designs a program of events, including scheduling and coordination of services, and selecting and training leaders. A logistics director assesses overall Stand Down needs and coordinates all material acquisition and distribution, site preparedness and security.Services will include both basic services and program services. Basic services are those that provide personal hygiene and safety -- food, clothes, showers, haircuts, shelter and site security. Program services include medical care (treatment for chronic conditions, screening for TB and STDs); dental care; mental health and substance abuse counseling; legal aid (such as the Homeless Court Program); assistance with benefits; and employment assistance.
  10. Raise awareness about the event. Select a public relations director from the steering committee or lead agency and organize a publicity campaign several months prior to the event. You will need to begin outreach to homeless veterans about six weeks before the Stand Down. Homeless veterans should be pre-registered for the event, if possible, to evaluate potential attendance and services needed as well as allow time for court files to be pulled for participation in the Homeless Court program, if offered.[The Homeless Court is a special court session held outside of the courtroom, often in a shelter or at a Stand Down site, through which homeless defendants can resolve misdemeanor offenses and warrants with a plea structure adapted to their involvement in homeless assistance and recovery programs.]

Stand Down Revenues and typical Expenses:

 SUPPORT & REVENUES

DONATIONS REVENUE $

FUNDRAISING REVENUES

TOTAL SUPPORT & REVENUES $

EXPENSES

EQUIPMENT RENT/LEASE

STAND DOWN MAINTENANCE

EQUIPMENT REPAIR & MAINT

UTILITIES

TELEPHONE

FOOD

KITCHEN SUPPLIES

SUPPORTIVE SERVICES

GAS FOR THE VANS

PRINTING COSTS

OFFICE SUPPLIES

POSTAGE & SHIPPING

HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES

MINOR EQUIPMENT PURCHASES

LICENSES & PERMITS

PROGRAM ADVERTISING

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