Homeless, at-risk veterans treated to their own 'Day of Service'

For unemployed Vietnam Veteran, Herbert Caughman, today’s event might really make a difference.

"It’s going to give me the clothes that I need,” Caughman said today, “they do have things to help you look good and due to the fact that I don't have the money at the present time to get clothes it's going to help a lot.”

Caughman has a job interview on Tuesday and received a new haircut, a new coat, and a new outlook today as part of the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s annual “Day of Service” in Northwest, Washington DC.

The annual event is completely free for veterans who are homeless or have fallen on hard times and at risk of becoming homeless soon. The services were provided by a team of nearly 60 federal, state, and local agencies and charity groups and all aimed at help veterans get back on their feet.

“These things I could not afford to get on my own, so I guess that says it all, Veteran Benjamin Cox, one of the nearly 500 veterans who came out today, said.

The day provided medical help to the veterans, such as flu shots, eye exams, dental exams, mental health services and HIV tests. But there was also the self-confidence boosts, like new shoes, new coats, a shower station and a barber shop.

“Don’t have no money, money low, can’t pay my bills,” Janice Whiting said today, “I’m very blessed to be here today.”

While all veterans today said this will help, they also admit though that much more than a new pair of shoes, or a coat – what they really need is a job.

Rosalynn Ellah service in the Iraq War and has been out of a job for nearly three years since she came back after her deployment. While she admits that anything free helps in her current situation, and walked away with two new pairs of shoes, what she really needs is a paycheck.

“If we have a job at least we can provide for ourselves,” Ellah said, “But without a job life is very difficult and to be without a job for two years, almost three years, that’s a very long time.”

A job training program was offered today for the vets, to match jobs with the right people. But Bryan Hawkins, Medical Center Director for the DCVA Medical Center says often times small things like a new pair of shoes can do something simple toward scoring a new job.

“ When you feel good you go out and you do good things and you do things by yourself, it does a lot for the self-esteem,” Hawkins said, “it’s not just a haircut, not just a feel good thing but to get them back to being productive citizens.”

And most of the veterans said they’re happy just with the possibility of a new beginning stemming from the event today.

“It’s a fresh start, a very, very fresh start,” Janice Whiting said as she held a brand new coat and a pair of he size 9 boots.

For Herbert Caughman it means the potential for a new job.

“I feel good for myself,” he said after his haircut.