A Respite From Homelessness

A Respite From Homelessness

Stand Down, an annual 3-day program in San Diego, offers free housing and social services to help disadvantaged veterans get back on their feet. (NYT)

The future mix of homeless veterans was signaled recently at Stand Down, an annual three-day tent city in San Diego that provides respite and aid to former members of the armed forces whose lives have collapsed.

The number of homeless veterans who made their way to a high school’s athletic fields for the gathering reached a record high, some 950 compared with last year’s record of 830. The job-devouring recession is pushing up the numbers, but organizers said they were also starting to see younger veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, some with traumatic brain injuries or psychological stresses, who had fallen through the safety nets with unusual speed.

Stand Down, which in military parlance means time out from combat to allow rest and re-equipping, started 21 years ago in San Diego and is duplicated on a smaller scale in other cities. It still draws a preponderance of Vietnam-era men, many fighting alcohol and drug problems.

A ragtag group of veterans, some with overstuffed shopping carts or backpacks, stay here for three days for hot food, haircuts, massages, dental care, legal aid, referrals to drug programs and federal benefits, and above all, for some, a bit of relief from the streets.

CHANNEL: New York Times

By Shayla Harris & Rob Harris

Length: 8:49

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