Stand Down helps local veterans learn about their options

Clemens Luke Kramer has struggled with drug use after he medically retired from the service following 12 years in the Army.

“I thought my Social Security was gone, I thought I ruined it,” Kramer said. “I thought my VA benefits were ruined because of my drug use and not contacting or doing anything.”

He found out differently Nov. 3 during the Community Services Consortium’s second annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down at the River Center.

At the stand down, Kramer learned his VA benefits stayed intact, and that he had back pay available from Social Security, he said.

“I was like, wait a minute, I was living in my mom’s car for the last year and I have money?”

Kramer also connected with HUD-VASH, a program that will help him get an apartment.

He said he’d been clean 172 days at the time of the stand down, and is thinking about returning to school.

Kramer was one of 76 veterans who came to the event to obtain information and free services, and to fellowship with other veterans.

Businesses, organizations and individuals participated in the event to help veterans get all the help they may need in one central location, said Scott McKee, veteran eligibility clerk at CSC.

Some veterans got free haircuts, dental services and hot showers while others got assistance with housing, health care and benefits.

“Survival gear such as tents, sleeping bags, gloves, and duffel bags were handed out to veterans who were homeless, and many items of clothing and hygiene supplies were donated and given out free to veterans and their families,” said Dina Eldridge, CSC housing services manager.

According to the U.S. Department of Human Services website, the “HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Veterans also helped out at the event.

Mike Aaron, founder of Link Up Vets in Lebanon, helped veterans get clothing and equipment in the DOD (Department of Defense) room.

Aaron served as a Marine for four years and started Link Up Vets to help connect veterans.

Free services at this year’s stand down included medical and dental assistance, employment services, housing services, alcohol and drug treatment, VA outreach, legal aid, HUD-VASH, DOD gear, haircuts, hot showers, lunch, and free tools and pet food.

Hot breakfast was supplied by The Point Restaurant, Sugar Vibes Donuts, and lunch from Backyard BBQ, James Gang Pizza, and the Lebanon Subway was provided.

“No one went away hungry, and leftovers were given to the local shelters,” Eldridge said.