Last year, U.S. Army veteran Jason Baker found himself homeless, staying at Bread of Life Ministries Housing in Augusta.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing with the rest of my life,” he said.

A veteran in the U.S. Army, serving from 1996 to 1998 at Fort McClellan in Alabama, his change of course came when he learned about the Homeless Veterans Stand Down, an event that connects homeless veterans to resources to help them gain long-term stability. 

“That was a big turnaround for me,” said Baker. 

Now, a year later, the 42-year-old is living in an apartment on his own in Augusta. 

“That is a direct result of the stuff that happened at the Stand Down,” Baker said. 

The Veterans’ Affairs Maine Health Care System will hold its 22nd annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Togus Theater, located at 1 VA Center in Augusta. 

“Stand down” is a military term, according to a VA website, referring to the period of time a soldier leaves an active combat area in order to rest and regain strength — a time to relax after a period of readiness.

Gabrielle Farris, advanced medical support assistant for HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, said that veterans will be connected to a wide away of resources. Those include assistance for medical needs, employment, flu shots, childcare, haircuts, clothing, shoes, women’s services, housing resources, veteran’s benefits, legal services, tax advocates, food stamps and MaineCare applications.

Having all the services in one location worked well for Baker because he did not have to figure out who to speak with next or wait weeks for appointments he said, and finding transportation for multiple appointments would have been difficult. 

“They got the ball rolling for me,” said Baker. “All the services came into place just from going to this one event.”

He does housekeeping for Togus through its Compensated Work Therapy program, which, he said, teaches veterans how to be a part of the workforce again.

“It was able to get me started on the path that I am on now,” Baker said.

Word about the Stand Down has been distributed throughout Maine to homeless shelters, general assistance offices, career centers and veterans centers in order to reach the ears of homeless veterans, according to Farris.

Veterans who attend the event are primarily living in homeless shelters, their vehicles, outdoors or camping, in buildings without electricity and water, in motel or hotel rooms paid for with general assistance, or other transitional, efficiency housing, she said. 

“A lot of veterans still remain homeless that come to this every year,” said Farris.

While the Maine Homeless Veteran Action Committee usually identifies homeless veterans in advance of the Stand Down, she said, any homeless veteran can attend the event by showing proof of service — the DD214 form — and saying where they are staying. 

Farris said veterans will be coming from all over the state. This year, veterans from around Caribou will be transported to Augusta, she said, leaving Friday night and having overnight lodging. The Elks Club will provide accommodations to the driver and veterans, Farris said. 

Those interested in supporting the Stand Down can contact Volunteer Services at Togus to get an idea of what the program needs, like hard goods or financial assistance.


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