HONOLULU, Hawaii -- More than 50 U.S. Army Pacific volunteers hit the streets of downtown Honolulu, June 11, to offer support to homeless veterans as part of an island-wide outreach effort.
"We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the veterans that came before us," said Master Sgt. Mattie Smith-Clayton, a volunteer with the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. "We're always going to be Soldiers for life."
This theme, "Soldiers for life," was simultaneously echoed by more than 250 other volunteers working with eight veteran organizations across Oahu as part of a U.S. Army Pacific initiative to reinforce each Soldier's commitment to never leave a fallen comrade.
The downtown volunteers were Soldiers and nurses from 8th TSC, Tripler Army Medical Center, 25th Infantry Division, and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade worked in conjunction with Veterans Affairs and the Institute for Human Services Men's Shelter to find and educate homeless veterans on the benefits available to them, while also linking them with medical care and shelter resources.
"We're here because we're giving back," said Smith-Clayton. "It will let them know that someone else has hope for them. People notice who they are, they are human beings. Once we instill in them the respect that we have for them, it may influence them to turn their lives around."
The volunteers split into four outreach groups and three labor teams, each with an IHS staff member to guide them in how to establish relationships and handle the variety of needs of those they interacted with.
The outreach groups visited Chinatown, Aala Park, and Iwilei Street areas meeting and encouraging more than 10 homeless veterans to begin the process of claiming their benefits and getting back on track.
The labor teams delivered furniture and appliances from a church in Ewa Beach to an emergency bed house that will eventually shelter as many as 20 homeless veterans at a time.
In the afternoon, the group reunited and traveled to the Nimitz underpass, an area with a large homeless population.
"Everyone has a vested interest here," said Smith-Clayton. "We're not just Soldiers for life, we're people for life."