Homeless veterans were offered a variety of services and connections at Adado Riverfront Park in downtown Lansing on Wednesday for the 10th annual Capital Area Stand Down for Homeless Veterans.
The event was organized by Volunteers of America Michigan, or VoA. In addition to a variety of services, a live band was featured and veterans were offered a meal at the conclusion of the event.
VoA is the largest homeless service provider in the Lansing area.
“The reason (this event is) necessary is that we have a shocking number of veterans that are homeless,” Darin Estep, community engagement director for VoA, said. “It’s unfortunate that it continues to be a problem.”
Estep said 31 agencies were present at the event with 68 volunteers offering their time. Douglas J Aveda Institute was one of the agencies in attendance and offered free haircuts, shoulder, neck, arm and hand massages.
Danielle Sutton, an educator at Douglas J Aveda Institute who was present at the event, said all of the students who were able to help out at the event were excited to be a part of the stand down in any way possible.
While there is a projected 12,224 homeless veterans in Michigan, Estep expected more than 100 homeless veterans to attend the event.
“Eighty percent of veterans who complete our program end up with keys to their own place and (have) employment,” he said.
Patrick Patterson, executive vice president of VoA, said the purpose of this event was to raise that awareness.
“This event is about direct advocacy and service,” Patterson said. “Service for homeless veterans that we haven’t met yet, service for all veterans that we do have relationships with. And advocacy for the shameful truth of the reality of homeless veterans.”
Maurice Moorehead, drop-in director for the Justice in Mental Health Organization in Lansing, is a retired veteran from the U.S. Marine Corps and has utilized the services offered to veterans for the past 20 years. He said one of the biggest benefits of partaking in events such as the Capital Area Stand Down are the relationships that are built.
“All of the community-based agencies keep all the veterans encouraged that hope is around the corner as long as they keep swinging at it,” Moorehead said.
Also featured at the event was the presentation of over 100 blankets, handmade by Eagle Scout candidate Kai Jeffery for veterans in the dormitory and housing program provided by VoA.
Jeffery, from East Lansing, was helped by many people in the community who contributed to funding the project, in addition to the creation of the blankets.
“I just want to give these blankets to the veterans to say thank you for their efforts and sacrifices,” Jeffery said. “I think it’s kind of wrong that these men and women who risk their lives for us are on the street.”