Operation Safe Haven - Oregon Veterans Propose a Plan to End Homelessness among Veterans

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Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO) to Open Veterans Facility in Bend, Oregon

Local veterans appealed to Bend Parks & Recreation Board Directors at their meeting on Tuesday, March 22 for use of the Buckingham Fire Station on the corner of Hamby and Neff Rd., as a permanent Veterans Shelter. Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc, (COVO) a newly formed Oregon non profit organization announced it’s plan to end homelessness among veterans.

“This morning everyone woke up at home in a comfortable bed protected from the elements in a safe and secure environment. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that over 300,000 veterans in our country did not,” said COVO spokesman Rick Gehweiler, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Vietnam Veteran. He proposed an outreach plan named Operation Safe Haven. “HUD is mandated to supply funds once a facility is designated and available, said Rick Gehweiler.

The thousands of men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces returning from war in Iraq are at risk for becoming homeless compounding this problem with major depression and anxiety. Recently, the 2nd Battalion 162 Infantry Regiment returned to Redmond from deployment in Iraq. An Army study in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 2004) showed that 17 percent of these service members met screening criteria for PTSD; post traumatic syndrome disorder.

“The real tragedy is that there is not a single veteran’s shelter or outreach program east of the Cascades to address the needs of homeless and poor veterans and their families. It is for this purpose that we established Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Inc.to meet this problem with solutions, first and foremost to acquire an appropriate facility to act as a shelter and outreach center,” said Rob W. Bryce, President of COVO. Rob Bryce, a former Case Officer for Army Intelligence during his tour of duty in Vietnam. Rob Bryce received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.    

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that the VA is currently servicing only about 20% percent of all homeless veterans. Adding to this problem is the lack of VA and federal resources to deal with this growing epidemic.

“There are estimates of 1500 homeless veterans trying to survive in Central Oregon. This is a moral outrage and social embarrassment to abandon defenders of our freedom,” said Rob Bryce, COVO President. “The Fire Station is perfect. It contains sleeping quarters, showers, cooking facilities, office space and has close access to the VA outpatient clinic that will be critical for a successful operation. COVO will operate a service center staffed with veterans helping veterans. Transitional supports will be made available such as shelter, food, health care, counseling, rehabilitation and training to meet the unmet needs of veterans; specifically the homeless and return them to civilian society.”

COVO is actively seeking a facility for a veterans outreach center and donations for the plan “Operation Safe Haven” which includes Mobile Outreach vehicles.

Believing that the community owes a debt of gratitude to its military veterans for sacrifices made in defending the nation in past, present and future conflicts, the mission of the Central Oregon Veterans Outreach is to establish a centrally accessible, veteran friendly outreach center. This center will achieve its mission, by providing a one-stop venue to identify veterans in need and provide resources directed to supporting and improving the living conditions of the veteran population of central and eastern Oregon. Through active fund-raising, community education, and public support COVO and the Veteran’s Outreach Center, will serve to advocate on behalf of all military veterans in mitigating the often permanent yet invisible scars of having gone to war.

For more information contact:

Rob Bryce, President, COVO– 617-8777;

E-mail- centraloregonveteranoutreach@yahoo.com or

Visit: http://www.covo-usa.org

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Rabbine Apfelbaum
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