San Joaquin County's Homeless Veteran Stand Down—a biannual "benefit faire" for homeless veterans—was last held on September 26, 2014. The military term "Stand Down" stands for a grass-roots, community-based intervention program designed to help homeless veterans "combat" life on the streets. Like the first four events before it, the last Stand Down was a one-day event held in Stockton. The sixth, however, will be a three-day event beginning September 16, 2016 and ending September 18, 2016, at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento. Transportation of local veterans will be arranged by Veteran Stand Down San Joaquin, Inc., which governs local stand down events.
A growing population of men and women who have served their country are returning from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological ills. Media has reported that forty-five percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking compensation due to service-related afflictions. Many of these veterans do not seek the professional help they need, but turn instead to "self-medication," frequently resulting in the development of substance-abuse problems. Veterans may ultimately lose their families, jobs, and motivation to these illnesses, casting them into a downward spiral and leading in some cases to homelessness.
September 2014 marked the first year that a homeless veteran mother attended the Stand Down with her children, and volunteers observed the high percentage of younger veterans in attendance this time, especially ones that had suffered obvious traumatic injuries.
The Stand Down committee of volunteers came together with a common belief that there is just something fundamentally wrong with the concept of "homeless veterans." The committee wanted to give back, even if just a tiny bit of honor and appreciation, to let America's veterans know that we care and we still remember that they served our country to keep us all safe, secure, and free. We wanted to express our thanks and gratitude for all that our veterans have done for us.
Past Stand Down events were held at San Joaquin County WorkNet in Stockton, with a number of services being offered nearby at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless property and the adjoining St. Mary's Interfaith Community Services. Booths were set up at the two locations for the thirty-plus service providers.
The events culminated in a 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. standing-room only session of the Homeless Court. At the last Stand Down, we saw between 80-85 veterans during the court session, who cleared approximately 125 old court cases.
The 2014 Stand Down yielded over 200 volunteers, including San Joaquin County S.T.A.R.S. (Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors) and Stockton Police V.I.P.S. (Volunteers in Police Service) who provided transportation. University of the Pacific volunteers including both students and faculty served in a variety of capacities at the events, including many community members and volunteers representing numerous organizations.
Over 200 homeless veterans attended the last Stand Down and were offered full medical, dental, and eye exams; showers; and a clothes closet. Legal services, employment referrals, housing assistance, health services, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, Veterans Affairs benefits counseling, Department of Motor Vehicles services, hot meals, and more were also offered. As a final stop, each veteran received the ever-popular large backpack stuffed with all sorts of useful items as a parting gift.
Legal services for each of the five prior Stand Downs were coordinated by Charles "Chuck" Keen, a local attorney, and legal advice was provided in all areas of the law. In past years, in addition to Child Support and Homeless Court clients, additional legal services were provided to approximately 50 veterans. Members of our local Bar have generously volunteered their time and talent over the years to provide free legal advice at each of the Stand Downs.
A major goal of the Stand Downs has been to provide services to the homeless veterans that will connect them with continuing services beyond the single event that will assist in breaking the cycle of homelessness. We aim to encourage reintegration of the veterans into mainstream society with volunteer organizations continuing to offer follow-up services to this population as necessary.
It is hard to tell who gets the most out of the Stand Down events: the Homeless veterans or the multitude of community volunteers and participating agencies. The veterans are always so very appreciative of all our efforts, services and donations. The volunteers and participating agencies experience the feeling of making a difference in the lives of this deserving group. It is an honor and a rewarding experience to serve our homeless veterans at these Stand Downs.
This year, the local committee will be providing legal support services in coordination with the Sacramento Stand Down's legal group. We anticipate that that we will be on-site for all three days. If you can spare a morning or afternoon and would like to help on-site or, if unable to be there in person, could be available for telephone consultation in your area of expertise, please contact Chuck Keen at (209) 948-0434 or email: . We will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm your participation once the final details have been ironed out.
To volunteer as a general volunteer for the Stand Down (not providing legal services), please contact Jason LeBeouf at or (209) 954-3920. There are plenty of tasks to assist with, especially since the combined Stand Down will now last for three days.