WATERLOO — The Cedar Valley markets itself as “a great place to call home” for everyone. That includes military veterans.
Some veterans, however, are having trouble finding a place to call home, or keeping it.
For that reason, the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission and a host of other organizations are combining to host a “Operation Stand Down” outreach event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo.
“Stand Down is to reach out to veterans who are homeless” or risk losing stable housing due to income or other factors, said Rachel Carter-Shadle of Cedar Falls, regional housing placement manager for Support Services for Veteran Families initiative of Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.
The event is to put them in touch with the resources they need, said Chiquita Loveless, a U.S. Navy veteran and director of the Veteran and Student Services office at the University of Northern Iowa.
She’s part of a 20-member committee of veteran organizations, social service agencies and volunteers planning the event.
It is believed to be the first “Stand Down” event in Black Hawk County, said Kevin Dill, executive director of the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission.
“Since Kevin’s been here, he’s been really getting involved in homeless veteran services and kind of brought the interest here,” Carter-Shadle said. Dill, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former Waterloo police officer, became county Veteran Affairs director in 2015.
“We provide a hot meal, haircuts, any health screening you need, access to medical and human service benefits. Anything they need — coats, shoes, boots,” Carter-Shadle said.
“It’s not just the one day,” Loveless said. “It’s to put them in a place where they can leave out the door feeling better about themselves and want to go and do better for themselves.”
“After this one day, they’re going to have ongoing support from these different agencies,” Carter-Shadle said. “We are really striving to make it accessible to our veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.”
Dill estimates there may be 50 to 100 homeless veterans in the county. But he also said the event is not limited to Black Hawk County residents.
In addition to HACAP, Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs, the Grout and UNI Veteran and Student Services, the event is also supported by the Cedar Falls AMVETS and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Americans For Independent Living, Goodwill Industries of Northeast Iowa, Heroes Care, Hawkeye Community College, federal Veterans Administration health care system, Veterans Benefits Administration and others.
The term Stand Down was a term coined during the Vietnam War when troops would come off the line to rest and decompress from battle. Vietnam Veterans of America initiated the first domestic “stand down” events in the early 1990s.
Those interested in more information or donating to and supporting the event may contact Dill at 291-2512.