John and April Stacey truly believe John would not be alive today without the assistance they received from a veterans stand down event they attended last year. The Staceys attended the sixth annual Homeless and Needy Veterans Stand Down at a North Carolina National Guard armory in Wentworth, in search of free legal advice.
Stand downs, started in 1988 by two Vietnam veterans, are named after the military term for a combat unit’s time to rest and recover while at war. Today, stand downs are a grassroots effort to offer services to homeless veterans. On any given evening in our country, 39,471 veterans are homeless, and 9 percent of those are women, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Stand downs typically include food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, benefits counseling, job counseling, and referral services. The philosophy of a stand down is to give homeless veterans a hand up, not a handout. Stand downs are organized by self-appointed community coalitions that take on the task of holding the event. Any group can decide to hold a stand down.
David Gayou participated in his local stand down in 2015 as a homeless veteran. The event allowed the Marine to find a job and put him back on a positive course. The following year, Gayou returned as a volunteer with a desire to help his fellow veterans. “The stand down last year saved my life,” he said.
The traditional stand down lasts three days, providing shelter and food throughout the event, and may provide services such as haircuts, healthcare screenings, vision and dental care, VA benefits counseling, substance abuse counseling, and legal services.
Which type of stand down should we plan?
Consider hosting a one-day health fair. Since homelessness ages an individual approximately 20 years beyond their actual age, services provided at these events usually include health care screening (HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis C, etc.); health care services; eye care services or referrals; dental care services or referrals; VA benefits counseling or referrals; governmental benefits counseling or referrals (Social Security, food stamps, local health and human services); substance abuse counseling/recovery groups; mental health counseling or referrals; or housing services (referrals to programs). Additional services can include foot care, shoes, and socks.
See a list of upcoming stand down locations here.
Check back for our next blog: How you can help local veterans by planning a stand down.
In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.