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North County Homeless Benefit From Gift, Stand Down

A homeless veteran is helped in this undated photo
North County San Diego Veterans Stand Down
A homeless veteran is helped in this undated photo
North County Homeless Benefit From Gift, Stand Down
Two pieces of good news for the homeless in North County this week: More than 100 veterans are registered for the first ever “Veterans Stand Down” in Vista this weekend. Plus a $3 million donation will help build a new Recovery and Wellness Center for homeless struggling with addiction.

Two pieces of good news for the homeless in North County this week: More than 100 veterans are registered for the first ever “Veterans Stand Down” in Vista this weekend. Plus a $3 million donation will help build a new Recovery and Wellness Center for homeless struggling with addiction.

As in downtown San Diego, the homeless population in North County is growing. In fact, homelessness in the north coastal region grew faster than in any other part of San Diego, according to the last report from the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Last year's count showed more than 2,000 homeless in North County as a whole, about 23 percent of San Diego County's homeless population. With the Camp Pendleton Marine Base just north of Oceanside, the area has its share of homeless veterans.

North County’s homeless services have become gradually stronger and more coordinated over the past decade, and dozens of agencies now collaborate through the Alliance for Regional Solutions. A winter shelter program has evolved into a program with three year-round shelters open and more focus on finding permanent housing.

Stand Down

This weekend the first Veterans’ Stand Down in North County takes place at the Green Oak Ranch in Vista. Stand Down was launched by the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego in 1988 and is now attended by about 1,000 veterans every year.

But veterans in North County decided it was a long way to travel and have organized their own Stand Down, The web site describes Stand Down as “a time when our homeless veterans can remove themselves from the combat of the streets. It is designed to create a transformational community of participants, service providers and volunteers that is based on dignity, respect and empowerment.”

Organizer Matt Foster said more than 120 veterans have registered and they will be picked up by vans from locations around North County and taken to the site. There they will be provided with fresh clothing, a hot shower and a meal. Over the course of the three days they can get medical and dental treatment, haircuts, legal help and other kinds of support to help them break the cycle of homelessness.

The event is funded with donations and a $50,000 grant from San Diego County.

A Major Gift.

This week Interfaith Community Services, one of the most active providers of services for the homeless in North County, announced a $3.2 million donation from the late Joan A. James and W. Lee James Jr. of San Marcos

Greg Angela, Executive Director of Interfaith, said the money will help provide something that is lacking so far in North County: a place for those struggling with drug and alcohol problems.

Homeless shelter under construction at Interfaith Community Services in Escondido, Dec.  2015
Nicholas McVicker
Homeless shelter under construction at Interfaith Community Services in Escondido, Dec. 2015

“The number one reason individuals fail and are “exited” from homeless veteran housing programs are drug and alcohol usage,” Angela said, “and we know that addiction is often the symptom of other deeper underlying issues: individuals who have suffered severe trauma in their life and are self medicating with drugs and alcohol.“

Angela said he is looking for a location in North County along Highway 78 for a new Recovery and Wellness Center. It would have treatment and health services for veterans and other homeless, as well as housing for up to 75 people.

“These are the poorest in our community who are living on the streets,“ he said, “who are suffering from addiction and mental health crises and they just don’t have a place to go.”

The donation from the Joan James Trust is the second largest in Interfaith’s 35-year history.

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