Homeless veterans supported during COVID pandemic
Special to Leader-Press
The number of homeless veterans jumped form 39,000 nationwide in 2016 to more than 67,000 by 2019 with Texas ranking number three for having the highest homeless veteran population according to themilitarywallet.com.
With the spread of the Coronavirus, the homeless population, including homeless veterans are at even greater risk due to the lack of the necessities – hand sanitizer, a dependable source of clean water and easy access to showers -- needed to ward off COVID-19. Without a specific controlled environment to call home, those experiencing homelessness have challenges prevent them from following the advice of health professionals – stay home when you are sick, wash your hands frequently and talk to your medical provider if you are feeling ill.
Copperas Cove-based Operation Stand Down founded by Joann Courtland supports homeless veterans throughout Central Texas and had a booth in front of Walmart on Saturday to gather much-needed supplies to support the nation’s heroes through the existing pandemic and beyond.
Junior Miss Five Hills Hayley Sawyer joined the effort with her platform, H3: Hayley Helps the Homeless.
“My father recently retired from the military,” the 9-year old said. “There are many people struggling after getting out of the military, and service is still something that our family feels needs to be done. If there is a need, we should be there.”
Courtland said the collection drive was scheduled months ago despite the pandemic the world is currently facing today.
“We always provide hygiene items to all of our homeless veterans at our stand downs, but not having access to clean themselves or their surroundings does pose an issue of spreading any kind of virus, flu or otherwise,” Courtland said. “We were low on many items and the collection drive allowed us to get donations of specific items that we are in real need of.”
Another missing component among homeless veterans is education about the virus, officially designated COVID-19, since they do not have consistent access to mainstream media.
Courtland, Sawyer and the other volunteers handed out lists to shoppers requesting specific items including hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and other sanitary products.
“The majority of customers were really excited to help and some even went out of their way to give all of the cash they had in their wallets, just to go in and buy more,” Sawyer said.
At the conclusion of the eight-hour collection drive, ten carts were filled with donations and more than $1,000 was collected to provide additional services. Courtland said the next stand down event where homeless veterans can collect these much needed items is held on May 2 at the Killeen Community Center.