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Stand Down Event Kicks Off Weekend Of Helping Homeless Veterans

Stand Down Event Kicks Off Weekend Of Helping Homeless Veterans

Reported by Roland Lizarondo

Photo by Dwane Brown

The belongings of homeless veterans are stored in an area at the event while veterans receive services, July 17, 2015.

Homeless veterans received food, clothing, medical and dental care as the 28th Stand Down — an annual event to help indigent vets in San Diego — got underway Friday at San Diego High School.

The campus' athletic field transforms into a giant, temporary MASH unit where homeless veterans can securely house their personal possessions and even some of their most precious cargo.

"Currently we have seven cats and 13 dogs in our care, as well as, two pigeons," said Tracy Wilson, a volunteer with PAWS San Diego, a nonprofit that helps the homeless feed and care for their pets. "We're expecting 60 animals over the course of the weekend."

In addition to basic services like a place to shower, attendees can get referrals to programs to help them once the event ends.

"I just enrolled in a 28-day inpatient program for PTSD," said Marine Corp veteran Eric Ellis. "So I'm going to check that out and get all the tools I need on my belt to get back into the workforce, back into the community and start living and being who I'm suppose to be."

The number of Stand Down participants has fallen slightly over the past two years hovering around a thousand. This year more than 600 pre-registered for the three-day event.

Photo by Dwane Brown

A veteran gets his hair cut at the 28th Stand Down event, July 17, 2015.

A count of the region's homeless in January found that 15.4 percent — about 1,400 people — had once served in the military. That's 6 percent more than the previous year.

"I think we're going to have more families then we've ever had before and that's very concerning to us," said Phil Landis with Veterans Village of San Diego. That's despite the Veteran Administration's goal to end homelessness by the end of this year.

"I mean that would be terrific, but as long as we have homeless veterans in this community there's going to be a Stand Down," Landis said. "There's going to be resources available to help them get off the street. Whatever it is they need, we're going to be here for them."

Since the Veterans Village of San Diego started Stand Down in 1988, it has spread around the country — with around 200 events annually, according to the organization.

Last year, nearly 900 veterans were served at San Diego's Stand Down. The Veterans Village of San Diego said the number of individual men who were served declined from past years, but the count of families in need of services was higher.

The event runs through 3 p.m. Sunday.

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