SAN DIEGO — The 30th annual Stand Down for homeless veterans began Friday at San Diego High School.
About 1,000 former military members and their families will receive various services from volunteers through Sunday.
The event started in 1988 in San Diego as a way to help former military members get off the streets and put their lives back together, and it has since spread around the nation.
Rodney Dabney is volunteering after receiving services at a previous Stand Down, at a time when he was contemplating suicide.
“They gave me hope that I could be a better person, that I could do something with my life and not keep going down this destructive path that I was on,” Dabney told 10News.
While homelessness overall has been a major issue in San Diego, the number of veterans living on the streets has been a special concern. The annual countywide tally of the homeless in January found 9,116 people, with 5,621 unsheltered in any way.
Of the total, 1,054 were veterans, 9 percent fewer than last year and 29 percent below the level of four years ago. The number of veterans counted on the streets, 454, was down 21 percent from 2016.
The drop is, in part, a result of increased attention on the plight of veterans on the streets, and a city of San Diego program that offers incentives to landlords to rent to homeless former military members.
According to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, 811 veterans have found a residence under the Housing Our Heroes program, and another 331 have been given vouchers and are looking for a place to live.
Veterans who attend the event receive shelter, food, clothing, showers, medical and legal assistance and substance abuse counseling.