Charles Valenzuela waves as he gets a flu shot during 2014’s OC Stand Down for homeless veterans and families.
Photo: Sam Gangwer, Staff Photographer
By BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS / Staff Writer
(see the article online here)
TUSTIN – Hundreds of volunteers will soon transform one of Tustin’s historic blimp hangars into a temporary military encampment.
There will be a mess hall for eating and barracks for sleeping. There will be showers, medical care, hair cuts, legal advice and much more. And all of these resources will be free to homeless veterans as part of OC Stand Down.
“Stand down” is a military term for when troops on the front lines are relieved so they can rest, clean up and receive medical treatment before returning to battle. In 1988, a group of advocates in San Diego seized the term and created the first Stand Down event for homeless veterans, offering them some relief from life on the streets. There are now roughly 200 Stand Down events throughout the United States each year.
Oct. 23-25 will mark the fifth annual OC Stand Down – though there will be several firsts at this year’s event.
This is the first time the event will include a job fair, with more than 100 businesses offering applications and on-site interviews. This is the first time one day is open not just to homeless vets but to all veterans who need a boost. And this is the first time the event will take place inside the hangar, with virtually no limit on the number of vets who can spend the weekend in the massive space.
“It has grown really big, really quick that way,” said Jim Palmer of OC Rescue Mission, who’s coordinating this year’s event with Jerri Rosen of Working Wardrobes.
Palmer estimates some 500 homeless veterans will live in the hangar for a weekend, while roughly 1,500 veterans might come through during open hours 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.
Service providers are broken into different units, Palmer explained. There’s an outreach and transportation unit, bringing veterans from OCTA bus stops to the hangar. Other units include food, personal care, housing, health care, education, legal and financial services, family services and employment.
The event will cost upwards of $200,000, Palmer estimated. Much of that will be covered through in-kind donations from supporters such as the city of Tustin. Standard Pacific Homes also donated $25,000.
“If they hadn’t done that, I don’t know how we would have pulled this off,” Palmer said.
Organizers still need roughly $25,000 to hit their budget, Palmer said. They also need more volunteers, including veterans to serve as navigators, plus anyone willing to help check people in or clean up. Lastly, Palmer said, they need help inviting needy veterans to Stand Down.
Sign up to volunteer, donate funds and learn about services available for veterans at OrangeCountyStandDown.com.
Contact the writer: 714-796-7963 or BStaggs@OCRegister.com