SAN DIEGO — The three-day event is like a village outside Pechanga Arena – with shelter and meals provided for veterans, as they’re connected with other critical resources, including medical, dental, vision and legal services.
“In the United States of America we do not believe that veterans should be homeless and certainly not in America’s Finest City,” said Akilah Templeton, President and CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego, which continues its mission fighting for the most vulnerable veterans, holding it’s 34th Stand Down event to help homeless vets and those vets who are at-risk for homelessness.
The event comes together thanks to donors and dozens of organizations around the county and hundreds of volunteers.
“It’s hard for them to ask for help. This is not easy and so we just we want this to be a safe space and a place where folks can be treated with dignity and respect and get access to the services that they deserve. They served this country,” Templeton said.
William Woodward is a Navy vet who has volunteered for 20 years and knows what it’s like for other vets who need help.
“I was homeless myself, living in my van 30 years ago and VVSD helped me out. I went to a Stand Down and by the third day they had worked with me and counseled me and talked me into going into the program for a long time,” Woodward said.
There are 800 to 900 unsheltered veterans in San Diego County.
Earlier this month, the county launched a new program called Leave No Veteran Homeless.
Gary Johnston with the County Office of Homeless Solutions is leading that initiative.
“I’m a Marine and so getting to see these veterans and talking to them is great, it’s awesome. I’m already getting great feedback. I’ve even had a few folks kind of teary-eyed when they see exactly the extent of what’s being laid out for them,” Johnston said.
The Stand Down continues through Saturday at noon.