Annual Stand Down event Oct. 25 to help homeless veterans in Mesa County
WHAT: 2013 Veterans Stand Down
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fri., Oct. 25;
WHERE: First Congregational Church, 1425 N. Fifth St. (across from Grand Junction High School)
COST: Free for homeless or struggling veterans
INFO: 970-263-2800, ext. 2723
Twenty-five years ago, a group of Vietnam veterans in San Diego stood together to help fellow former soldiers by organizing the first-ever “Stand Down” where homeless or at-risk veterans could come to one location for clothing, food, health screenings and more.
The phrase “stand down” refers to a period away from combat, a time when soldiers can rest and relax.
On Friday, Oct. 25, community partners will come together to help the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center host a Stand Down at First Congregational Church, 1425 N. Fifth St.
“It’s a community effort open to any homeless vet or veteran at risk of becoming homeless,” including those who are “couch surfing,” VA Medical Center spokesman Paul Sweeney said.
Homeless and struggling veterans can receive winter clothing, flu shots, veterans benefits counseling, and medical screenings at the event.
It is also an opportunity for at-risk veterans to eat a hot meal and receive a “nice hair cut,” as well as companionship, said Lisa Strauss, homeless program coordinator at the VA.
Last year’s Grand Junction Stand Down served 160 veterans and their families.
“It’s a one-stop shop where homeless and at-risk veterans in the community can come in and talk to people,” Sweeney said. “What’s unique, is our gateway to mental health services. It’s an opportunity to see what’s available.
Last winter’s Point in Time survey counted 160 veterans and their families as homeless in the Grand Valley — an estimate Sweeney said he believes is smaller than the actual number of local homeless veterans.
Information about housing opportunities for veterans will be available during the Stand Down.
“If we can get people into housing, they’re likely to be more successful with other programs — medical, mental health, substance abuse,” Sweeney said.
Grand Valley Transit will provide free rides for veterans to and from the event on regularly scheduled routes.
“It really is a cool event,” Strauss said. “People are really grateful and appreciative.
“And it’s starting to get cold again.”
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