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Food drive goods delivered to Savannah VA Clinic
VA food drive
VA Police officer Shawn Springs and Haylee Foster, VA Savannah’s Voluntary Services Officer (right).

On November 18, the American Legion Post 27 held its first Homeless Veteran Food Drive. Collecting over 200 Lbs of food for the Food Closet at the Savannah VA Clinic. The food was delivered on Monday the 20th and was a needed resupply for the closet.

“It’s a great pleasure to provide this food from the citizens of Richmond Hill, collected during our first Homeless Veteran Food Drive,” Commander Awtrey said.

“Thank you so much Commander Awtry, and to the members of Post 27, from Richmond Hill, for the generous donation of groceries for our VA pantry,” Haylee Foster said. “These donations help keep food on our veterans’ tables and food is part of the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

“People simply cannot function without this need being met and, thanks to you and the many wonderful organizations and individuals who help keep this pantry going, we can continue to feed our veterans. A special thanks also goes to VA Police Officer Shawn Springs who was a special help in unloading the groceries,” Haylee Foster said.

Q+A with Haylee Foster, the Voluntary Services Officer at the clinic:

Q: How many vets visit the food closet per week/month / day?

A: Each week is different. We’ve had as few as no requests in one week and as many as 18 requests in the next. In October 2023 we had 26 food requests, and in September we had 34 requests. Sometimes requests coincide with the end of the month as benefits and other assistance runs low, or if there is a change in assistance policies by the state. Other times, if there is a spike in unrelated costs, such as gas price, we’ll see an increase in food requests.

Q: What other homeless help does the clinic provide? What do they have to do to get help? How long has the assistance been in place?

A: Our clinic also offers HUD VASH assistance. That’s a program where we partner with Housing and Urban Development. The program is called Housing and Urban Development-VA Subsidized Housing and we provide rent vouchers for veterans who are homeless. Any homeless veteran can come to the VA and meet with a HUD VASH social worker, and our walk-in hours are Monday-Thursday from 9:00-11:00 am. There is an application process and, unfortunately, it isn’t immediate housing, but it does provide opportunities for long term housing. If a veteran needs immediate housing we refer them to Changing Homelessness. This is a private organization that works with a VA grant to assist homeless veterans and veterans who are potentially facing homelessness. Veterans can walkin there and also make appointments. Along with the housing assistance we often have other items available for our homeless veterans. I keep ‘necessity bags’ in my office that include a drawstring bag with toiletries, snack, water, small blanket and possibly a shirt or socks, depending on what’s been donated and available. A local church makes beautiful quilts for our veterans and those are very much in need, especially as we enter the cold months. If a veteran is homeless and requests food, I ensure they receive food that is ready to eat and a can opener. They also get a packet of other local resources available to them. If a veteran needs grocery or any of the other items my office provides they can ask their primary care doctor, a social worker, any of our front desk staff or myself directly. I don’t know how long the HUD VASH program has been around, and the same with Changing Homelessness. Voluntary Service has been in existence since 1946, though our roles have expanded a great deal since it was begun. Unfortunately, Savannah didn’t have someone in this role until I arrived, and I have been here since March 2022.

Q: What is the consumption rate? How much food is given per week or month?

A: Each bag of food costs, approximately $40-50, ($49.03 at Richmond Hill Kroger) depending on brands purchase and the store, and we provided over 1400 bags of groceries so far in 2023. We average around 116 requests per month, but it can vary drastically. That number also includes groceries provided for Hinesville and Beaufort CBOCs.

This is one element of assistance available for our local veterans; Post 27 can and does help veterans with other types of assistance, especially if we can help prevent homelessness in our community. If you are a legion veteran or on active duty and have school age children, the American Legion has a national program called Temporary Financial Assistance. It requires an interview and some paper work that a local legion officer can help with. It does not happen overnight, so some foresight is helpful. During the last government shutdown when thousands of Coast Guard families were not getting paid, The American Legion gave over $2.1 million in grants. If your needs are more immediate than that program can give, Post 27 is part of a coalition of local veteran-oriented nonprofits that may be able to help. If you need help with the holidays coming soon you can contact Post 27 by emailing jhellissr27@yahoo. com.

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