october 16, 2010

GI Go Fund, City of Newark, Others Host Northern New Jersey Stand Down at JFK Recreation Center for Homeless Veterans

Event worked to fulfill President Obama’s Pledge to end veterans’ homelessness in five years

NEWARK, NJ - President Obama last year announced his pledge to end homelessness among all veterans within five years. He noted how the rate of homelessness among veterans is significantly higher than for non-veteran populations. Now, as we move into year two of his pledge, New Jersey organizations worked together to help make his goal a reality.

Over 600 veterans gathered at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center to attend the annual “Northern New Jersey Stand Down for Homeless Veterans,” a one-day outreach effort to assist homeless veterans and their families. The event was hosted by the G.I. Go Fund, in connection with Northern New Jersey Stand Down Committee, Inc., the New Jersey State National Guard, the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the federal Veterans’ Administration.

The Veterans were able to receive food, clothing, and medical checkups from the many volunteers who came to help. In addition, various government agencies were there to provide benefits and services such as social security and legal services. As they left, the veterans received military surplus; green camouflage rain gear, tan and black combat boots, and sleeping bags.

Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark attended the event to greet the former soldiers and thank them for their sacrifice. He discussed the need for all in America to recognize the sacrifice veterans have made in order to realize the growing tragedy of former soldiers living on the streets.

“We need to become relentless in waking up this country to let people know that our freedoms didn’t just happen and that there not always going to be here unless we have people who are willing to defend them,” said Booker. “So we have an obligation to veterans and their families. When they come back home, they face crises in terms of housing, health and other areas. We can do so much to help, but we need to get people conscious of the reality our veterans face.”

Organizers of the event were glad to offer the services and assistance to veterans in need. However, they recognize that this one day is not enough to truly fulfill the goal set out by President Obama of ending homelessness among veterans within five years.

“At the end of the day, despite everything that we were able to do for the veterans who came through the doors today, they left the event homeless,” said G.I. Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous. “We can stand here all we want and claim that the event was a success, but it is not enough. People may see that we had 600 veterans here and think it was a good event, but I wish that there were only a few homeless veterans here.”

Fanous added that he feels that the President’s goal to end homelessness among veterans is a responsibility for us to achieve.

“Our veterans have been looking for this kind of leadership for 40 years,” said Fanous. “But we need to do our part. President Obama is not going to come down here and end homelessness himself. It’s going to be on me. It’s going to be on my organization. It’s going to be on all of us to get this done for our veterans.”

The event may not have been successful in ending homelessness among veterans. That is a task too great to accomplish in one day. But it is something that can and must be achieved for the future stability of the veterans’ community.