You may have heard some buzz about big changes coming to the 2018 Maricopa County StandDown, which is coordinated by our Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance. Allow us to provide official updates on the two biggest changes.
EXCITING NEW SERVICES!
Each year we look forward to learning directly from StandDown participants about the needs of our military veterans at risk of or already experiencing homelessness, and there has consistently been a tremendous need for dental services. We are excited to provide 25 full-service dental chairs at this years' event, in partnership with Central Arizona Dental Society's Mission of Mercy.
According to the VA, access to dental care was consistently ranked by veterans experiencing homelessness as one of their top 3 unmet needs, along with long-term permanent housing and childcare. Dental issues, such as persistent pain and/or missing teeth can be tremendous barriers in seeking and obtaining employment. Studies have shown that many veterans report that after dental care they feel a significant improvement in perceived oral health, general health and overall self-esteem. Which is why we are eager to work in partnership with Mission of Mercy to assist in meeting this growing need.
NEW SERVICES BRING CHANGE
With this exciting new addition of much-needed dental services, clothing will no longer be given at the Maricopa County StandDown.
This is not because there is no longer a need for clothing -- there is, and we value our many community partners who gather and distribute much-needed boots, shoes, and clothing year-round. This is because the needs of those we serve each year have evolved, and we pride ourselves on being responsive to those wants and needs in order to provide the most effective assistance.
In 2006, 80% of the veterans served at the event met the definition of homeless; in 2017, just 17% of the veterans served were sleeping in shelters or on the streets this past January. Where there was once overwhelming need for emergency shelter and immediate assistance like hygiene and clothing, annual event demographics and statistics in recent years have consistently shown a shift in community need for more in-depth resource connection, such as education and job readiness programs, access to free or low-cost health, vision, and dental care, connection to a variety of housing providers, and more.
In addition, as our event has grown to serve over 2,000 veterans annually, the expense of providing a new pair of shoes to everyone in attendance at this single two-day event has become cost prohibitive and we look forward to re-allocating these funds to better serve statewide, year-round work being done to end homelessness, starting with veterans.
Our veterans seek a hand up, not a hand out. With your support, we look forward to continuing to be that helping hand by providing even more needed services in the years to come.