Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

San Diego Stand Down Prepares To Help Hundreds of Homeless Veterans

A veteran checks in at the counseling booth at the 27th annual Stand Down event July 18, 2014 to learn about the housing and health services he can access.
Megan Burks
A veteran checks in at the counseling booth at the 27th annual Stand Down event July 18, 2014 to learn about the housing and health services he can access.
San Diego Stand Down Prepares To Help Hundreds of Homeless Veterans
GUESTS:Phil Landis, president and CEO, Veterans Village of San Diego Liz Diaz, resident manager, Veterans Village of San Diego

Our top story, it's an event that changes lives, it's also an annual service that organizes hope will no longer be needed. The 20th annual Stand Down starts this Friday and lasts through Sunday on the San Diego high school campus. Each year, hundreds of homeless veterans and family members get medical treatment, job counseling, and a variety of other services including the chance for housing placement. According to the regional task force for the homeless, there are more than 1300 homeless veterans in our county. Joining me is Phil Landis, president and CEO, Veterans Village of San Diego. Liz Diaz, resident manager, Veterans Village of San Diego Also joins us. She was once a participant of Stand Down You have been doing standup for 28 years, that's quite a while longer than you thought it would last. Tells how the event began. Initially, there were two veterans working with veterans Village at that time. They saw an enormous number of homeless veterans on our streets. They thought we ought to invite them to Balboa Park and see what happens. Nobody knew what would happen. About 250 showed up in what they realized was we need to provide services and do something important to help our fellow veterans letter into difficulty and stand on was born. You didn't think it would last this long? Without a couple years, it didn't work out that way. In the last few years, you had 1000 participants come to stand down. Is a typical story you hear from these veterans about their struggles with addiction and homelessness? There's a common theme. The underlying issues are part of three part element. Drugs alcohol and trauma. Those seem to be the issues that help people propel into homelessness. Lose your job, you lose ability to find help. When your cars repossessed, there's no place to go. Then your homeless. That's a real shock for most people. When it goes on and on, you start to lose hope. Then it's the despair. These things roll upon themselves and make coming out of it much more difficult because there's so much inertia that keeps you don't. What's kind of services you offer? This is a three-day events. It is a city of Hope and healing. We gather as many homeless veterans and their dependents on this field as would like to join us. We've averaged 1000 participants. We are hopeful they will be substantially less this year, but we just don't know. We want them to think in terms of this is the place we blastoff to change your behavior. If it veterans who need medical treatments or find out how they can get work, that whole range of services is available? Yes. That's the critical component. We couldn't to stand down as acuity. The state community events. We facilitate it for the community. We couldn't do without collaborative partners. They create an entire hospital unit. Balboa Hospital has a dental van, we have optometrists and psychiatrists. We have providers of every service you can imagine including people that really want to help you find housing. Housing is critical. Participants have to make a decision and decide today is the day. That's the message. Don't have to continue the behavior that led you to homelessness. Their people here and resources that can help you move beyond that into a meaningful life and truly thrive. Liz, are you seeing more women veterans coming in for help? Yes. Finally a meeting just like admitting that drug or alcohol problems and getting services. Do they come in the same way as the mail veterans or other differences A lot have differences for the men. It's hard for them to say they have a problem. Women are 2 to 4 times more likely than men. What are the reasons? That's difficult to determine. My guess is there something about military service that in some cases negatively impacts both men and women. That same core of trauma. Untreated trauma as brutal. With women there may be issues of resiliency. There are some commonalities, some of the common threads we have seen is without exception, they are on top of everything else they are dealing with, there is an underlying dramatic incident involving military sexual trauma. Liz, is that something you hear about with women veterans who, to Stand Down Yes. A lot of the issues they come to pick a Is veterans Village prepared to handle the women's needs? We believe we are. We are never done. In that regard, we see four and half years ago the women veterans that joined us in our treatment facility neither separate set aside a built residential building its set aside from the mail veterans that have joined us it's very important part part. It's your reality. We anticipate a larger number of women veterans seeking services as timeless work. I want to follow up on something. In addition to medical services and other assistance come in, a big goal of Stand Down is to get veterans housing . How difficult is that? San Diego County has a small vacancy rate. I will tell you there are an enormous resources in San Diego County to help veterans get housing. The local VA has 1500 best doctors issued -- vouchers issued. I don't know how many have exercised. Probably most. We are also receiving $8 million a year through a special convention program called SS via. It's a program to prevent homelessness. You're paying rent for veterans who are at risk of losing their apartments, 8 million a year ago one would think with all of these resources, the number of people joining us this year would be reduced dramatically. That's what I'm hoping to see. You don't know yet how many people are going to be seen over the three-day weekend? I will have a better idea Friday afternoon. A little over 600 Preregistered. Often times people will preregister and not sure. We don't know until you're standing in front of a registration desk at 6 o'clock in the morning this coming Friday. When it comes to these vouchers, they can be handed out and we have some extra money for these programs to house veterans. We have the housing available? That's the question. We're running up against a top wall. We don't have housing. San Diego counting doesn't have the vacancy rakes -- rates to handle it. It's a major issue. Everything else being equal, would be able to house rapidly becoming more and more difficult. Liz, he first came to Stand Down as a participant , how did it help you? It gave me hope. That's where I found out about the welcome home family program. There are things I have to do to get into this program and my family and I were accepted in. It was overwhelming outburst because they give you an apartment fully furnished and you wonder what they expect from you? All they expect is to be responsible for my actions in the past. To do the outpatient program, which I did. That's her recovery came into my life. Is your story similar to what Bill has been talking about, the sexual untreated trauma and spiral into addiction and homelessness? No trauma cut just the drug and alcohol addiction. I was homeless for two years with my husband and daughter. You have come really far. You're managing the welcome home family program, where you started off as a client. Why do you think that program helps you to succeed? They gave me hope and the tools. They gave me a bite back. Here you have Liz's story. It's very moving and probably hear a lot of stories like that. There are some people who come back to stand down year after year. How can Stand Down serve veterans for chronically homeless? We did an analysis going back over a decade. Much to our surprise we found very few were chronic returnees to stand down. Less than 20%. The vast majority of the people that come to us Stand Down, get it and move on with their lives and they don't come back to join us. Liz represent the resiliency and heart of all of us. And the willingness to do what it takes to change your life. We are very proud of her. No more so than she is of herself. Are you taking parts in San Diego's new permanent housing transition program that's the managed? Are you referring to Rochester? Yes. We're going to provide navigators which will assist people and finding permanent housing. It's been said since the year-round shelter closed, there are more homeless people on the streets, do you expect that to continue for a while? I do. It's a conundrum. Only look at all the resources we as a city and a community put into helping people get off the streets and it seems everywhere you turn today, the number of homeless men and women and families is increasing. The number of homeless are veterans in San Diego County went up 26% from the year before. I don't know that means we're getting better at catching people that it seems that there are more. Everywhere you turn, they're everywhere. We're seeing more and more homeless men and women and families. It's a disturbing statistic. Was it like for you to be able to help other literary veterans are basically coming from where you came from. It's very rewarding. Your story must be inspiring to them. I would hope so. Let me tell people they can find Stand Down this Friday through Sunday. What are the hours they are open? 6 AM almost 24 seven. If you come in 10 o'clock at night, we could probably assist you but would rather you come in earlier. The majority of our participants will be coming in between 6 o'clock Friday morning and Saturday at 10 or 11 in the morning. If people still want to volunteer can they? Yes. We have 4500 volunteers. 4500 of our citizens that provide resources and time and energy to assist over this weekend. Most of the positions that would require volunteers have been filled. If you have a burning desire, track us down and we'll find something for you to do. I am speaking with Phil Landis, president and CEO, Veterans Village of San Diego and Liz Diaz, resident manager, Veterans Village of San Diego. They give up. Thank you for having us.

San Diego Stand Down Prepares To Help Hundreds of Homeless Veterans
Veterans Village of San Diego is hosting Stand Down for the 28th year beginning on Friday at the San Diego High School campus.

Hundreds of homeless veterans are planning to attend the 28th annual Stand Down starting Friday, hosted by the Veterans Village of San Diego.

Phil Landis, president and CEO of the organization, said nearly 4,500 volunteers will come together for the annual event to bring medical and social services to homeless veterans and their families.

In 2015, the San Diego County homeless population totaled 8,742, according to the San Diego County's Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Of those, 1,381 were veterans.

So far, about 600 people have pre-registered for Stand Down.

The event will offer veterans clothing, food, and medical and dental services but the overall goal is to get people off the streets and into homes. In the last several years, more than 1,000 people have received services through the three-day event.

For most veterans, three reasons may cause them to be homeless.

“There is a common theme,” Landis told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “The underlying issues really are a three-part element: drugs, alcohol and trauma. Those seem to be the issues that propel people into homelessness.”

The event starts at 6 a.m. Friday and will run nonstop through 3 p.m. Sunday at San Diego High School at 1405 Park Blvd.

For more information, call (619) 393-2000.

San Diego Stand Down Prepares To Help Hundreds of Homeless Veterans