Homeless veterans campaign kicks off Friday

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Veterans Center on Kapule Highway will serve as the site for the first-ever Homeless Veteran Outreach Campaign Kick-Off, starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

As part of a national commitment to prevent veteran homelessness, the Veterans Administration Pacific Islands Health Care System will hold a “Stand Down” to raise awareness of services available to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness, a VA news release states.

The Stand Down is an outreach event for Kaua‘i’s veterans where they can learn about housing, employment, health care and other support services available to them.

Kaua‘i was selected by the VA as one of 28 locations to spearhead the mission of establishing a priority goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015, the release states.

This was set by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki of Kaua‘i in keeping with President Barrack Obama’s vision to honor and support the men and women who have worked to preserve the nation’s freedom.

On a single night in January 2009, more than 75,000 veterans were homeless across the nation, and in that same year, approximately 135,000 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program, the VA release states.

“Those who have served this nation as veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope,” Shinseki said in the release.

Charlene Burgess, team leader for the VA Kaua‘i, said there will be hair-cuts and massages being offered free for the homeless veterans as well as entertainment by Kaua‘i composer and entertainer Larry Rivera.

Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Michael Cardarelli will be the featured speaker during the kick-off event for the national campaign to end veteran homelessness from 2 to 4 p.m.

Judi Murakami, daughter of a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, said there may also be clothes.

“I might still have more, but I brought a whole bunch Tuesday and left them with Aida Cruz, manager of the Kaua‘i Veterans Center,” she said.

Dr. James Hastings, director of Pacific Islands Health Care System, Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Andrew Dahlburg, homeless programs manager for the Pacific Islands Healthcare System, and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. are expected to offer remarks on the program.

In addition to providing resources, the VA campaign aims to prevent homelessness by connecting veterans and their families with support before they lose their housing.

Veterans lose their homes when financial, employment, health, or legal challenges overwhelm them, the release states, and the VA is integrating access to services for all of these issues in a one-stop hotline through the VA National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4243-838.

Calls to this number will be fielded by trained counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The VA expects to spend $3.4 billion to provide health care to homeless veterans and $800 million in specialized homeless programs this fiscal year.

For more information, call the VA Kaua‘i Clinic at 246-0497, ext. 2.

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