Operation Stand Down '06

[Photo: A volunteer enters information about Champ into the homeless management information system.]
A volunteer enters information about Champ into the homeless management information system.

[Photo 2: Champ gets medical tests provided at Operation Stand Down.]
Champ gets medical tests provided at Operation Stand Down.

[Photo 3: Champ discovers he has high blood pressure.]
Champ discovers he has high blood pressure.

Champ is 48, chronically homeless and just out of jail. He is addicted to alcohol, but says he has been clean and sober for 4 months. Volunteers at Operation Stand Down in Shreveport offered Champ and others like him a wide range of social and health services.

This marks the 12th anniversary these services have been available to the homeless in this community; but this year Operation Stand Down took place at a new and bigger site at the Riverview Center in downtown Shreveport and expanded from a one-day event to two days.

The event was modeled after the Stand Down concept used during the Vietnam War to afford battle-weary soldiers a place to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, medical and dental care, receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. That is the purpose of the Stand Down for the homeless, and achieving those objectives requires a wide range of support services and time. The program is successful because it brings these services to one location, making them more accessible to the homeless population, with special emphasis on homeless veterans.

The sponsors include the Overton Brooks Veterans Administration Medical Center who organized the event. They are strongly supported by HOPE for the Homeless and most other social service organizations in the community. Services include health, dental, and vision care, along with employment information and access to a number of hard to get services, such as identification cards and housing.

Take a virtual tour through Operation Stand Down 2006 with Tanual Champ. A soft- spoken gentle man, Champ, as he likes to be called, seems to know a lot of the folks on both sides of the table.

Champ tells volunteers he is not working now, but has worked in construction, landscaping and as a cook over the last 30 years. He says his addiction has caused him to lose many jobs and cost him relationships and self-respect. He talks about what he hopes to gain at the Stand Down and says he wants to do better. He needs help getting a job and finding a safe place to stay.

Champ begins at the entry point where his personal information is entered into a database. This tracking system allows providers across the system to enter services provided and needs yet unmet. Champ is already in the system, so this process moves quickly.

His first stop is a quick medical check of his vital signs. This includes a blood pressure check that indicates a high pressure of 156/92. Volunteers schedule a consult with the physician's assistant at the site and move to HIV testing. A provider is offering a quick test that involves gathering a simple oral fluid sample, with results in 20 minutes.

He continues on and gets a flu shot. Champ gets a quick dental check up where he is told to make an appointment at the community health center; the dentist says he needs dental care in a bad way. Good news for Champ! He is HIV-negative.

He moves on to the ID table and is told that in order to get a state ID card, he must have two forms of identification. He must go to the Social Security table where they can print up his SS card that will serve as one source of identification.

Once the volunteer attorney notarizes the SS card, he then can use that to get a food stamp card that will serve as the second form. That will result in a voucher provided by Centerpoint, the information and referral agency in the community that will provide the funds to cover the cost of the state ID card. He is told he should have it by next week - more good news!

It is finally time to check in with the physician's assistant on his high blood pressure. She takes his blood pressure again and it remains very high. She states that while it is not at a level where stroke is imminent, he should have it checked by a medical doctor.

Champ reports that he is a veteran but has lost all of his papers that would allow access at the VA medical center. The head of social work makes calls to get Champ into the VA quick care clinic tomorrow morning. Champ breathes a little easier and settles in for his home cooked meal of chicken, vegetables, potatoes and apple pie.

Morning comes and the VA van transports Champ to the quick care clinic on the grounds of Overton Brooks VA Medical Center. Champ is met with caring concern. Because he does not have his VA card, he is required to complete a stack of paper work. Following data entry into their system, Champ is ready to be checked by the medical doctor. Although the wait is considerable, the results are life-saving as he is provided with high blood pressure medicine.

Now that he is on his way to better physical health, he is eager to increase his opportunities for stable housing and employment. He works his way back to the Stand Down and visits with the folks from Project Employment. They give Champ the run down on how they can help him and he sets up a time to meet with them the next day. He is also told that he may be able to get an apartment at the SRO, where he can feel safe and secure and can begin to rebuild all the things lost along the pathway to chronic homelessness.

Champ looks back on the two-day experience and he realizes that he has had the opportunity to renew his spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. And that, after all, is the purpose of Operation Stand Down.

Content Archived: July 18, 2011