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Military-Style Encampment Offers Services to Homeless Vets

July 3, 2018

By Mario A. Cortez

An event focused on connecting San Diego’s homeless military veterans with social services wrapped just days before Independence Day.

The 31st annual San Diego Veterans Stand Down, organized by local nonprofit Veterans Village of San Diego, gathered an estimated 770 veterans at a campsite set up on San Diego High School’s upper baseball field.

As part of the three-day event, attendees received a cot to sleep in, meals, showers, and access to transitional and health services.

Because of the high concentration of military members who transition into civilian life and the high cost of living, San Diego sees a large number of homeless vets among its disproportionately large homeless population.

“There is a very high concentration of veterans living on the streets because of the Marine Corp Bases and the multiple Naval bases,” said Kim Mitchell, Veterans Village of San Diego president and CEO. “Many servicemen decide to stay in San Diego due to the great weather and the lifestyle but unfortunately it is very difficult to make ends meet.”

Mitchell mentioned that through the yearly camp veterans are able to access a wide range of aid from many organizations in person.

“We have services ranging from medical and dental provided by Balboa Medical Clinic and the VA Medical Center, Family Health Centers, to employment services from many providers such as Father Joe’s Villages,” she shared. “A lot of people come in for legal services, they can meet with the DA’s office and the Public Defender’s office to look at what they need to get fines and fees waived through various programs.”

The event also provided a place for family members of veterans facing an unstable housing situation. Mitchell explained that families remain together in assigned tents where they can remain together for the weekend.

“Each veteran and their spouse and children are assigned to a tent and that’s where they sleep and do things together, they chow together and talk and it builds community,” she pointed out.

Attendees looking to enter the camp are pre registered in advance either though the Veterans Villages website of in person at service provider offices. However, many showed up at the camp’s gates during the event.

“Many show up at the door on the day of and they are people who are looking for services they might need,” Mitchell said. Of the estimated 770 veterans at Stand Down, about 320 were admitted on the camp’s first day according to Kim.

Although the camp closed down already, Mitchell stated that Veterans Villages’ campus on Pacific Highway in the Midway District is open year round and offers multiple programs ranging from job training to to substance abuse control and housing to veterans qualified through the Veterans Affairs office.

Despite all the aid and services veterans can potentially receive at Stand Down, Mitchell points out that meeting other former active duty military who have the same struggles can be of great help for veterans without a stable living condition.

“For the veterans that are here they can connect with other veterans and to realize that you’re not alone and dealing with the same issues and challenges and that is important and I hope that if any vets here didn’t connect with a service or resource hopefully they have connected with another veteran if they need help or someone to talk to.”

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