If you’re reading this newspaper, chances are you’re not homeless.
But in the richest, most bountiful country in the world, there are plenty who are homeless.
Because of that, a group of people reached out to the homeless of Scioto County Friday at Portsmouth’s Tracy Park as part of a what was called “Stand Down to end Homelessness.” There were many different groups and individuals who volunteered their time to help the homeless.
The group answered this question, “What is a Stand Down?” The word “Stand Down” is a military term and refers to the time when combat units recover from their time on the battlefield. In the civilian world, “Stand Down” refers to a community-based program designed to help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness connect to the resources they need to address their problems and rebuild their lives. The list of services at a typical “Stand Down” can vary from getting a free haircut and free clothing and food, to receiving a medical screening and referrals for housing services.
At “Stand Down,” individuals and families can take time away from being — or the fear of becoming — homeless.
The group says that, as a community, we can accomplish far more by working together than we can by working alone. This is especially true for complex issues, like homelessness. In an effort to support those in our area who are homeless and at risk of homelessness, several community members have come together to organize the area’s very first “Stand Down” event.
“Our primary goal is to connect our most vulnerable citizens with the resources they need,” event organizers said. “By doing so, we will give them hope and encouragement so that they can rebuild their lives. We will also use this event as a way to educate the public about the issue of homelessness in our area. We will target those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”
Amy Combs and Carmen Josey were both on the planning committee for the event. Combs works at the Chillicothe VA on the homeless team, so she is directly involved with the day’s activities.
William Dillon, the veteran’s service officer for Scioto County , said, “It is a good turnout. It has been consistent all day. We’ve seen some new people, which is good, so we can talk about our services.” He said he had a table full of things to give away, but his table was becoming quite bare.
The women representing the Metropolitan Housing Authority also said the event seemed to be going really well. They also had “goodies” on their table, but they said they had just for this day brought backpacks for little girls and boys, and were already out of the boy backpacks. They also brought sunscreen to give away, and still had some left. They also said they had taken applications to try to help people with their housing.
Some of the other tables set up included Portsmouth City Health Department, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Chillicothe Vocational Rehab Services, United Health Care, Mental Health Intensive Care Management, Mahajan Therapeutics, Goodwill of Southern Ohio, The Raw Addiction Through the Eyes of Recovery, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, Scioto County Early Head-Start, Community Action, The Salvation Army and many others.
The Salvation Army had a truck set up from which soup was served, and right in front of them, Sonora’s Restaurant, who helps out so much in the local community, had brought their grills from which they were cooking and serving hot dogs. Angela Davis said the soft drinks were donated by Pepsi. Potter’s House Ministries brought the soup, and Community Action Organization donated the hot dogs and buns.
There was a large tent with lots of different sized boxes. Gabe Brown of Compass Point Housing, a member of the planning committee, explained, “This little box has canned food in it, like a meal for one, and then we have hygiene stuff and other types of things in them. They also had clothing and sleeping bags. Brown is part of Communicative Care, which oversees the homeless situation in the community. Brown, also a teacher at Shawnee State University, had some of his students helping for the day.
Free haircuts were provided by The Eternal Day Spa. Jackie Cooley, owner Sandy Cable and Becca Ault volunteered their time, and theirs was a busy spot.
Angela Davis, social service director at Community Action and another member of the planning community, spoke of a group called “Truckers for Troops,” affiliated with Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which donated a lot of items, like sleeping bags, backpacks and personal hygiene products.
Tim Blake, who is with Volunteers of America, said of “Truckers for Troops,” “we reached out to them, and then they saw our flier on the Chillicothe VA website. They are out of Missouri, and I asked them if I could put up a sign for them because they didn’t have one because they are brand new. It’s like the Independent Truck Drivers Association. I was stunned it came in the mail. I didn’t know if it would show up, and two days later, there it was.”
Davis also said the planning committee solicited for volunteers for the day by calling different agencies, putting fliers around town and Facebook pages, and they had an actual volunteer signup sheet. She also said the homeless shelter through the Free Store Food Bank of Cincinnati brought the food boxes, because they have a pantry. Maureen Codogan brought them to Portsmouth.
Organizers believe “Stand Down to end Homelessness” was a very successful event, and plans are for it to happen again. Both Davis and Blake said that from the results of today, it can only grow. The inaugural event proved a great way for businesses and individuals to reach out and give back to the community.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928