October 12, 2013
Despite Government Shutdown, Annual “Stand Down For Homeless Veterans” Open Thanks to Volunteer Support
Number of Veterans in attendance down drastically from previous years thanks to efforts of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, The GI Go Fund, and countless others
NEWARK, NJ- For nearly two weeks, the federal government shutdown has caused major disruptions in the veterans’ community; furloughing tens of thousands of VA employees and putting their benefits at risk of either being severely reduced or cut entirely. Nevertheless, despite the inability for Washington to do its job for our7 military veterans, a group of dedicated volunteers gathered to ensure that hundreds of homeless veterans would not be deprived of needed services.
In the city of Newark, dozens of volunteers in the community helped veterans living on the streets at the annual “Northern New Jersey Stand Down For Homeless Veterans”, hosted by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the GI Go Fund, and the Stand Down of North Jersey Inc. The event, hosted every year at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center, serves as a one-day, one-stop center for homeless veterans from across North Jersey to provide them with food, clothing, and critical support services.
This event, which is so important to veterans in need every year, was put in jeopardy due to the government shutdown. The shutdown has disrupted so many different veterans’ benefits, including those directly related to housing and financial aid. Nevertheless, organizers were able to have enough volunteers on hand who were willing to help our former military personnel most in need.
“As the government enters its second week of a shutdown that has seen veterans miss out on benefits, shut out of their own memorials, and used as political pawns, we have continued to fulfill our commitment to helping veterans get off the streets, find jobs, and feel the true love of Americans who are in awe of their sacrifice,” said GI Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous. “My pledge will be to always serve those who served and ensure that the men and women, who fought to defend our streets never, ever live on them”.
Typically, the event is attended by over 600 veterans every year. However, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Booker and the GI Go Fund over the last four years in and around Newark of helping veterans find housing and collect their benefits, the number of veteran attendees this year dropped sharply to 200-300.
During the Stand Down, veterans received haircuts, photo ID cards, medical checkups and HIV testing, as well as counseling and information support groups about employment services, state and federal VA benefits, substance abuse programs, vocational rehabilitation, recovery programs, hospice care, and legal services, including City legal support to address outstanding criminal matters.
Veterans were also provided lunch cooked by New Jersey Army National Guard. Afterwards, they were given a full range of Army surplus and civilian winter clothing, including boots, underwear, ski caps, pants, and personal toiletries. Clothing and hygiene supplies were generously provided by the Disabled Veterans National Foundation and Operation Gratitude.
The GI Go Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 that has been recognized for its unique and innovative solutions to addressing the homeless veteran population. The group has been successful in helping veterans living in Newark with all of their needs, turning Newark into the model city of providing veterans with the services and care that they deserve. Their successful model of assisting homeless veterans has received national attention, as the organization’s work has been showcased on Fox News and the ABC reality show “Secret Millionaire”.