Helping Our Veterans

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, and while it was originally established to mark the end of World War I, it has since been expanded to honor all of our veterans and thank them for all they have done, and are still doing, for us.

I have long felt that we don’t do enough for these brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect us and our way of life. We owe them a great debt for their service, and it is important to me that we honor that debt.

One of my major complaints on this front is that too many veterans here in Maine are homeless.  According to the VFW, Maine Homeless Committee, there are about 860 homeless veterans in Maine. While there are many programs available for homeless veterans to ease their situation, the outreach to connect the veterans with these services is difficult. This last weekend, there was an event to help bring these veterans in and hook them up with the help they need to get back on their feet. It is called a “Homeless Veteran Stand-Down,” and it was held at the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta.

Stand-downs like this are modeled after events that happened during the Vietnam War, when troops were given a break from combat operations. At a stand down, veterans are given hot meals, clean clothes medical and dental care, and hot showers. These stand-downs have been an annual event at Togus, and have been scheduled traditionally at this time of year to help homeless veterans prepare for winter. At the stand-down last week, 71 homeless veterans came in from the cold.

While this is a good start, it is clearly not enough, and so this last session I put in a bill to do much more for our homeless veterans. The bill, entitled An Act To End Homelessness for Veterans in Maine, passed into law, and it calls for the director of the Bureau of Maine Veterans’ Services to partner with a volunteer agency, such as the Volunteers of America, to carry out an offensive against homelessness for Maine’s veterans. The effort will be based around an expanded system of stand-downs. These will take place at different times of the year and in different parts of the state to maximize the effectiveness of these events. They will also be coupled with increased efforts to identify homeless veterans. Additionally, the new law calls for the identification of housing and sources of funding for housing to get these veterans into a warm safe place.

I believe that this law will make a real impact on the problem of homelessness among Maine’s veterans. These people have done so much on our behalf, and getting them into appropriate housing seems the least we can do for them. And if you can on Friday, take a moment and reflect on all that we owe our veterans.

If you’d like more information on this law, or if there is anything I can do for you in Augusta, please call my office at the State at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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