Homeless veterans from throughout San Diego county are getting some relief today in the form of haircuts, showers and a place to sleep in safety.
The 24th annual "Stand Down" has begun at San Diego High School, offering about 100 services in one location.
The three-day event was launched in San Diego more than 20 years ago and has since spread to 200 locations nationwide, said Tom Mitchell of Veterans Village of San Diego, which organizes the event.
"We provide showers, new clothing, a haircut,'' he said.
(To see video by CBS of Stand Down 2010, click here.)
Court officials have been at the campus to help homeless veterans take care of misdemeanor warrants and traffic citations. The Department of Motor Vehicles has been providing identification cards, and rehabilitation centers have assisted attendees with alcohol and drug abuse issues.
"The help is here if they want it,'' Mitchell said.
Tents and cots are set up across athletic fields, creating a military atmosphere. It's designed to help the veterans return to a time when they had more structure and discipline in their lives, Mitchell said.
Event coordinator Darcy Pavich said 947 homeless veterans were served at Stand Down 2010, which was an increase of 19 from the year before.
She said this year's count could approach 1,000 because of high
unemployment rates among veterans who recently returned to civilian life.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of
veterans from post-9/11 wars was 10.9 percent in April, more than two points above the national figure. However, the rate for male veterans aged 19-24 was 27 percent.
"(Veterans) raised their right hand to protect and defend, not to be
homeless,'' Mitchell said.
City News Service contributed to this report.