On Wednesday, December 1st, the Director and Deputy Director of the VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) joined over 80 people from 20 communities across the country in Washington, DC to discuss civic engagement in communities responding to homelessness. Representatives including local law enforcement, district attorneys, service providers, advocates, faith leaders and federal partners met to work collaboratively to identify policies and practices that treat those experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect under the law while simultaneously meeting the need of communities to maintain safety and civic order.
The day was one of collaborative brainstorming and sharing of ideas. Each participant was part of an 8-10 person table. Some of the ideas generated from the two tables where VA was represented included planning discharge upon entry and look at ways to partner collaboratively with communities of faith and non-profit organizations; law enforcement should consider working with the faith community to assist them in their community strategies; work with the counseling programs sponsored by churches, mosques, synagogues and temples; and use Veterans’ Stand Downs as an opportunity to bring community agencies including criminal courts together in order to help Veterans address issues that are obstacles to self-sufficiency.
Stand Downs are one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to provide services to homeless veterans. Stand Downs are typically one to three day events providing services to homeless Veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment. Stand Downs are collaborative events, coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies, and community agencies who serve the homeless. For more information on Stand Downs, visit http://www1.va.gov/HOMELESS/StandDown.asp.
The day-long event “Searching for Balance: Civic Engagement in Communities Responding to Homelessness” was co-sponsored by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Access to Justice Initiative at the Department of Justice.
If you would like to comment about this posting or to receive more information, email vafbnp (at) va.gov
Rev. E. Terri LaVelle is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs