American Indian Warriors Member Juan del Rio, USMC Participated in the 2014 Veterans Stand Down

By Roy Cook

What is a Stand Down?
In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. Today, Stand Down refers to a community-based intervention program designed to help the nation's estimated 200,000 homeless veterans "combat" life on the streets.

VVSD organized the nation's first Stand Down in 1988. Since then, the program has been widely replicated nationwide. Today, more than 200 Stand Downs take place across the country every year. "The program has become recognized as the most valuable outreach tool to help homeless veterans in the nation today," according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Stand Down's philosophy is a hand up, not a hand out. The hand up is made possible each year by the dedication of thousands of volunteers and numerous sponsors. Since so many of our veterans are on the street, safe housing and health issues are primary needs.

AIWA member, Juan del Rio, is part of Amikas, an organization that provides housing to homeless women veterans. They shared a table with the County of San Diego's Housing & Community Development (HCD) at Stand Down, providing affordable housing and shelter information. Amikas provided an up-to-date list of available housing resources including transitional housingand affordable rentals, helping to minimize the hundreds of fruitless calls often required to find housing.


 Amikas serves female veterans, with or without children. They directly lease and then sub-let rooms in 1 large house and 3 smaller houses, "at cost". Currently Amikas houses 13 adults and 15 children. You can find out more about Amikas at where they also provide lists of housing resources.

What happens at Stand Down?
Stand Down this year was held July 18 – 20. Hundreds of homeless veterans were greeted with respect and open arms and assigned to tents where tent leaders assisted them in accessing services. Picture IDs were provided for those who needed them and the VA and EDD assisted with registration. Their immediate physical needs were addressed, including a visit to the clothing tent; showers; barber, and medical and dental care. Other services provided over the weekend included:· Homeless court
· Counseling
· Veterans benefits
· Employment and job counseling services
· Acupuncture and massage therapy
· Recovery providers
· Shelters
· Chaplains services
· 12-step meetings for everyone

And last but not least, meals were prepared by VFW, American Legion, VVSD, Kiwanis, and supported by the Lions Clubs, Rotary and local food distributors.

Perhaps most important of all is the feeling of safety. For the first time in possibly days, weeks or even months, our homeless brothers and sisters could leave their possessions in the care of others and rest.

Stand Down is a place of miracles. Lives are changed and lives are saved. The founders of Stand Down had a dream. They made it a reality, one which continues to offer a true stand down for all homeless veterans.