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Homeless Veterans Get Social Services At Stand Down


Aired 7/16/10

Hundreds of homeless veterans are going to get help with medical care, counseling, food, clothing and other social services today as part of the annual three-day Stand Down at San Diego High School.

Hundreds of homeless veterans are going to get help with medical care, counseling, food, clothing and other social services today as part of the annual three-day Stand Down at San Diego High School.

DWANE BROWN: The phrase 'stand down' is a military term, it means to stop action and review procedures. Once a year, the Veterans Village of San Diego holds a different kind of 'stand down' event on a high school athletic field downtown. Right now, there's an estimated 3,000 homeless veterans on the streets of San Diego. Stand Down is where vets and their families get access to health care, legal and housing services, over a three-day period. Joining me on Morning Edition is army veteran Homer Gibbs. You were actually one of the first people, Homer, in line at the Stand Down event last year. Can you recall what you saw and who you met?

HOMER GIBBS: I showed up at Stand Down a week before, with my tent and my sleeping bag, and actually I expected to find people already there, and so me being first in line was kind of -- kind of a surprise. And then Saturday two more people showed up, and it was like an ongoing thing, and by Friday of the next week, it was just -- the line was all the way up to the freeway from the gate.

BROWN: And you were there a week ahead of time?

GIBBS: A week ahead of time. I camped out.

BROWN: So who did you meet?

GIBBS: Met everybody that usually, I mean, there's people that come every year. You know, that's all they have is the Stand Down, you know. The Stand Down and actually the winter shelter, too. It was kind of surreal because in 2007 I went to Stand Down, too, and I got there the day before. Everybody was already there, and it was kinda chaotic, you know what I mean, because it was everybody doing their own thing. There's a lot of drugs and a lot of alcohol there, too, you know, out there. So, it gets kind of -- it gets kind of chaotic.

BROWN: When you say it's the only thing they have, what do you mean?

GIBBS: I mean, cause like you said, there's so many homeless, most people have their spots that they live at during the year. They kind of camp out at. And so, Stand Down gives these people a chance to come, and get things taken care of that they need to get taken care of, like health care, going to court, taking care of court matters, you know, getting a haircut. Just the small things in life that they're not used to getting because, you know, they don't have the means to do it.

BROWN: So what was going on in your life a year ago before Stand Down?

GIBBS: Uh, well, actually, it was -- you know, I was drinking a lot. You know, I had developed cataracts in like October or November. And so, that made me start drinking a lot more, and start doing drugs, you know, and just kind of -- cause I lost my job, you know, I lost my place, and so I just went off -- pretty much off the deep end with drinking and drugs, and being homeless.

BROWN: How has life changed a year later?

GIBBS: A year later, with the help of VVSD (Veterans Village of San Diego) I've got my Class A license, I have a studio downtown, a nice studio. It's like a brand new one, one of the brand new places they've built for low-income housing. I have my life back. You know, I have friends today that are friends, and it's all because I surrendered to the program of recovery.

BROWN: What are some of the key coping skills?

GIBBS: Letting God guide you. The program is a 12-step program, and so there's steps that really help, you know what I mean, but you've got to be willing to do them. I think that's the key is surrender, and being willing to change.

BROWN: Where you headed now?

GIBBS: Now that I can see because, you know, really I had some resentments, when I first got to VVSD, cause I'm like, 'Wait a minute, I want to do this and I want to do this and I want to do this...' you know, like, they pretty much put the breaks on everything, and it's like, now I can see it. A year later, now I can see why they do what they do.

BROWN: So you really stood down.

GIBBS: Definitely.

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