Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Homeless Stand Down 2012

A Wonderful Day for Those Experiencing Homelessness

2012 Homeless Stand Down (photo by William Gilmore)

2012 Stand Down at the Masonic Auditorium (photo by William Gilmore)
All reports from the Stand Down was that it was a great day for those experiencing homelessness.  There was a very good positive article in the Plain DealerHandsOn NEO took the lead and did a great job coordinating this huge event.  Our long time partner, InterAct Cleveland, went out of business, and HandsOn Northeast Ohio took on all the responsibilities of this critical event.  This is the 20th year for the City of Cleveland to feature an all day service fair for veterans and non-veterans in the same facility on the same day.  Cleveland was the first city to expand the Stand Down to include non-veterans in the early 1990s.  Stand Down is a military term for a period of rest away from the battlefield.  The Stand Down originated in San Diego as a day in which every part of the Veterans Administration along and most other government agencies who serve veterans would meet on an open field and set up tents to provide housing, jobs, benefit check and health care screenings.

Cleveland has done the Stand Down at Cuyahoga Community College campus, Old Stone Church, Trinity Cathedral, the Cosgrove Center, the Convention Center and now at the Masonic Auditorium over the years.  We have served 700 to 1,700 people depending on the year and the size of the facility.  NEOCH began partnering with InterAct in 2003 after years of doing it ourselves.  We moved the Stand Down to the winter as a Winter ReStock operation.  The thinking was that those who spend time on the streets get a boost from all the volunteers and help during the holiday, but by the end of January all of those winter items were worn out or lost and they needed a hand up.  I really believe the Stand Down is an important event for the community that many wait months to attend.

It is important to have all the services in one place. The 2012 Stand Down took place on Sunday January 22  at the Masonic Auditorium on Euclid Ave.   It is great that all of these volunteers show up to help.  There are valuable items given away, and a great deal of information passed onto the community.  But on the individual level it is transformational for the people who attend.  I have seen many people show up beat down by the stress of finding a bed and food every day, and walk out with a full heart, full stomachs, a full bag of winter clothing, and full of hope for the future.  They get a haircut, a beautiful portrait, new clothing, and a relaxing day centered around their needs.  I have had women who had their lives saved after discovering a lump at the breast cancer screenings at the Stand Down. A lot of people who are resistant to shelter wait for the winter coats and boots.  There is entertainment, food, and a chance to catch up with a social worker or a friend you may not have seen for many years.

The care volunteers at the Stand Down are highly professional and sensitive to the needs of the population.  They go above and beyond to make the men and women feel welcome and the whole event is centered around those without housing.   Despite the large number of people, HandsOn did a nice job efficiently and effectively serving those who were requesting help.  Here are the numbers from the 2012 Stand Down:

840 people attended including families.
172 haircuts were completed free of charge.
89 Podiatry screenings.
147 non-food service volunteers helped out, and a total of 400 volunteers to stage the days activities. 

Thanks to the community for opening its arms to help those in need with some extra tender loving care on one day out of the year.

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