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Stand Down: Helping Our Homeless Veterans

As readers of this blog, you know that The Veterans Site is dedicated to feeding homeless veterans.  One of the organizations that your daily click at The Veterans Site goes to is Veterans Village of San Diego, CA.  

The Veterans Village of San Diego "Stand Down" was created over twenty years ago by Robert Van Keuren and veteran and clinical psychologist John Nachison.  They saw the rising numbers of veterans among the homeless in San Diego, and started the annual Stand Down event to give veterans a three-day weekend chance to get cleaned up, have a few good meals, get basic medical and dental health care, and maybe get into rehab programs, or find work.  A Stand Down occurred just this weekend, from July 15th through 17th. 

Those who have served know the term "stand down" represents that time when you are back in the rear, the pressures are off, you can put your piece down and get a few hours of rest before the next push is required of you.  This annual weekend event is an opportunity for homeless veterans to "stand down" from the daily stress of living on the streets, to live for a few hours in a cleaner, safer environment.  It is a chance to get out of the disorder and chaos of the street and back into the consistency and orderliness of the military lifestyle, even if only for a weekend.

The trouble for many of these veterans is the transition from military orderliness into the chaos of civilian life.  When you've come back with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, etc., that transition may be too much to take in.  For some the gap between military and civilian life is more than a gap, it’s a chasm.  What we are finding now is that, along with the numbers of veterans from the Vietnam War, an increasing number of veterans from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding themselves homeless on our city streets.  According to CBS 60 Minutes, there are currently some 9,000 Iraq and Afghan War veterans among the homeless.

Dr. Natchison says that it took about ten years after the Vietnam War before we started seeing those veterans  becoming homeless.  Now he says that the Afghan and Iraq War veterans are becoming homeless less than a year after discharge.  The reason, he believes, is the number of redeployments that these recent war veterans are experiencing.  900,000 veterans of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan have been redeployed two or more times.  The issues associated with PTSD become layered with each deployment and the traumatic experiences that are so much a part of war. 

These young veterans are also coming back into an environment of economic instability with the deep recession that the nation has been in for the past four years.  There are not enough jobs.  Without jobs they cannot make the transition into civilian life.  Growing numbers of women veterans who are experiencing both combat and redeployment pressures are also now facing homelessness. Women now make up fourteen percent of our military forces, and are involved in combat experiences more than at any other time in our history.  

The fact is that there are not enough programs to match the needs of these new veterans.  The lack of housing is particularly evident.  The Veterans Administration has recently begun to respond.  It has dedicated a billion dollars to ending homelessness among our veterans in the next five years.   In the meantime our veterans, both men, and increasingly women, need your help right now. 

The easiest way for you to help through The Veterans Site is to click on the "Click Here to donate, It's Free" button.  Each click generates contributions from our sponsors that go 100% toward feeding homeless veterans.  One of the programs that you are helping is the Veterans Village of San Diego, which feeds homeless veterans every day in San Diego.  Check out their Facebook page for recent updates from the weekend's activities.

If you are in a position where you might volunteer with a local group to help veterans, or you might be able to hire a veteran, we encourage you to do so.  It is noble work to help our veterans get back on their own two feet and to become contributing members to society here at home.

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