Safety and security for homeless veterans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Homeless veterans in Suffolk and throughout Western Tidewater can count on a place to lay their heads and obtain basic necessities without cost during an upcoming benefit planned by the local Disabled American Veterans.

Beginning Tuesday, May 31 to Thursday, June 2 at the National Guard Armory on Godwin Boulevard, Stand Down 2005 takes place. This will involve a coalition of agencies and businesses, including the Salvation Army, Social Services, and area health providers, to name a few, said Reginald J. Ruffin, a member of the Suffolk, DAV chapter #5 and program planner.

The last effort of this magnitude took place in Hampton in 1999. This is a first go-round for Suffolk. As Ruffin sees it, Stand Down 2005 will give homeless veterans and their families two and a half days of

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&uot;safety and security.&uot;

Free services will include nutritious meals, two of which the Salvation Army will provide daily. The DAV will serve the third meal. Other offerings include free clothing, hair cuts, job counseling, legal services and a wide range of other supportive services.

Some 50 to 200 veterans are expected to participate.

&uot;Our major concern is Suffolk and Western Tidewater,&uot; said Ruffin, explaining that veterans in these areas often have the hardest time connecting with service providers.

Since World War II, veterans have been overlooked, said Edward Young, who’s assisting with Stand Down 2005. &uot;The Korean War was the forgotten war and they spit on us after the Vietnam War. These people (veterans) are my blood brothers, regardless of who they are.&uot;

Both Ruffin and Young said Stand Down 2005 would also assist them in bolstering their case for a homeless men’s shelter in Suffolk.

&uot;Suffolk needs to do something for homeless men,&uot; said Young.

City officials, the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless and several local social service agencies are in the early stages of talks to address the growing problem of homeless men.

The DAV is requesting individuals, organizations and businesses to donate items, such as clothing and services, for Stand Down. Call 934-2695 or 539-9996 for more information.