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Homeless Veterans Event Updated For COVID-19

Clothes hang from a donation bin at the Veterans Village of San Diego's clothing drive, Oct. 9, 2020.
Jacob Aere
Clothes hang from a donation bin at the Veterans Village of San Diego's clothing drive, Oct. 9, 2020.

Stand Down is an annual initiative where homeless veterans get services, haircuts and a place to sleep for a couple days. But COVID-19 will be changing the program this year.

The event started to take shape as Veterans Village of San Diego of San Diego organized a clothing donation drive.

Homeless Veterans Event Updated For COVID-19
Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.

The clothing from Friday’s event and donations to Veterans Village over the coming month will be distributed at Stand Down, which takes place on November 22nd.

The non-profit is striving to reduce veteran homelessness and joblessness in a time when both are on the rise across the nation, according to the organization.

Akilah Templeton is the President and CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego and she said the pandemic has made this year’s plan even more crucial.

“This is the 33rd year for Stand Down. This year of course we have to do things a little differently, but we are still super excited. What you see now is part of all the prep work that goes into Stand Down,” Templeton said.

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Typically, Stand Down is a three-day, two-night event where homeless veterans and their spouses are provided food, clothing, showers, health and legal services and a place to sleep.

But Veterans Village has had to adapt to serve veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many veterans have been impacted by the current pandemic,” Templeton said. “This year this is especially important because they have lost many access points, so many opportunities to access services, to access free clothing and food and things of that sort.”

Rather than cancel Stand Down, the non-profit will provide a drive-through or walk-through event to support veterans when they need help the most.

The non-profit plans to make it a single day event this year where they will deliver clothing, food and resource information to some of San Diego’s homeless veteran population.

Democratic State Sen. Toni Atkins, California District 39, said volunteering with Veterans Village is a way of showing appreciation for the people who fought for our freedoms.

“These are service members who have supported our country. My entire family were military folks, it's what brought me to San Diego. It's our way of saying we see you, we hear you, we care about you,” Atkins said.

Veterans Village of San Diego has served veterans since 1981 and the annual Stand Down intervention event roughly serves 800 people every year.