STEPHEN HEMELT — Food assistance is 1st step for area’s homeless Veterans

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 12, 2020

Our homeless, especially our homeless Veterans, are in need in our community.

We don’t think about it on a daily basis, but the forgotten segment of cities and neighborhoods totals in the hundreds, with the possibility of a much larger number that we are just not aware of.

That’s where Southeast Texas Stand Down 2020 comes into play. This year’s effort runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 24 at Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur, inviting all homeless Veterans to come by and receive the support they’ve earned.

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Numerous regional agencies will be on hand to offer all methods of assistance.

The special free event supports Veterans, especially those in need of special services. While the event targets economically challenged or homeless Veterans, any veteran is welcome to benefit from the services provided.

Southeast Texas Stand Down is a collaborative effort conducted by departments representing the City of Port Arthur and dozens of non-profit partners. It is intended to be a one-stop opportunity for services such as clothing, food, shelter, medical checkups and mental health screenings.

There will be educational sessions and chances for direct interaction with servicer providers.

Southeast Texas Food Bank President Dan Maher told me anyone in an economic disadvantage faces food access issues.

He said staff will be on hand to promote SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) enrollment. SNAP is commonly known as food stamps.

“It creates grocery access in a way that multiples what (the homeless) might be able to get through an institution like the food bank,” Maher said. “SNAP allows them further access to ordinary grocery shopping. It creates a balanced diet opportunity. It is a more nutritious access to food for them.”

Maher said local homelessness, although a serious concern, is sometimes hidden from the consciousness of average residents.

He said the homeless population tends to reside in camp environments hidden from the general public, because “they tend to seek out their own privacy, their own remoteness from the ordinary community channels.”

“We need to be aware of this,” he said. “There is usually several hundred homeless in our environment at any one time. I think in the wake of Harvey and Imelda, there is a lot of displacement homelessness. There are probably thousands of people still in transition with displacement.”

Volunteers will be needed at the community center Jan. 24 supporting the Veterans through the various activities and making sure they are aware of the opportunities available that day.

Dozens of vendors are expected to attend, Maher said.

“We’re also providing food that day,” he said. “There are backpacks of food that we will be giving out. We will have a truck of produce there. We need volunteers that can help with those kinds of direct assistance.”

Those interested in volunteering are asked to call 409-839-8777 or 409-347-0124.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2445 or