LIMA — The Dayton Veterans Assistance Medical Center is working on reaching out to veterans in Allen County, starting with the standdown held Friday.
Bobette Hart-Nelms, the manager of homeless and TSES program, said that their goal is to reach out and let veterans know what programs the VA has for them and what programs community providers have for them.
“I think the more we do it, the more community providers will know that we’re here, the more the veterans will know that we’re here for them,” Hart-Nelms said.
Hart-Nelms said this is the first time the VA has held a standdown in Lima. The event, held at Veterans Memorial Civic Center, is the beginning of a larger outreach to the area. Hart-Nelms hopes that by the time they hold their standdown next year, the 40 veterans who attended yesterday will have spread the word and even more veterans will come.
Hart-Nelms said that it is not about the number of veterans that attend, it is about the connections made. She believes that the more people know about the services the VA has, the more veterans will hear by word of mouth.
In addition to booths for veterans to browse, the VA handed out things like sleeping bags, knapsacks, clothing, purses, coats and undergarments. They also served lunch and set out coffee and doughnuts.
“We love feeding our veterans,” Hart-Nelms said.
The VA works with veterans to help them with whatever they need, from housing to employment to therapy to medical help.
“We cannot end veteran homelessness, we cannot reach out to veterans if we don’t know who they are and if we don’t know who are community providers are that are working with our veterans,” said Hart-Nelms. “We don’t want to leave any veteran behind.”
Regina Hardy, a clinical social worker with the VA, said that in Allen County some veterans live outdoors, camping in various woods. There is a need here, and she is excited about the growing collaboration between the VA and community providers.
Hardy comes to Allen County at least every other week from Dayton. Hardy said that she sometimes will work with a specific veteran if an organization has put her in touch with one but she comes up even if she has not gotten any phone calls.
Hardy works with veterans to put them in touch with whatever they need. She even does counseling for veterans, since she is trained to give therapy.
“We are striving to serve our veterans with the absolute best,” Hardy said. She encourages people to spread the news about the services that the VA offers.
Hart-Nelms said that she plans to keep holding standdowns yearly until no veterans show up because they all are in touch with services that help them.
In September when troops come home, Hart-Nelms said that at least a third of the veterans coming home will be coming to Ohio. She hopes that the connections they made Friday will allow them to reach out to the veterans when they get home.
“We’re here. Call us. Let us help. You don’t have to do this on your own, because we’re here,” Hart-Nelms said.