The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) says that the concept of a stand down for homeless veterans is modeled after the area of safety created for units returning from combat operations. In secured base camp areas, soldiers could "renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. ... That is the purpose of the Stand Down for homeless veterans."
The NCHV maintains a list of Stand Down events at locations across the country.
On Friday, Nov. 16, a group of six UW Tacoma staff and students traveled to Olympia to volunteer at the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) Thurston County Stand Down & Job Fair. The annual event at the Olympia Armory provides homeless veterans with free boots, jackets, sleeping bags, food and haircuts.
UW Tacoma junior Becca Miranda is a work study student for the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program at WorkSource. She participated in the stand down last year. “We didn’t have enough people,” she said. “I decided I was going to take the initiative and see if I could get us some help.”
Miranda – an Army veteran – reached out to Derek Richert in the Veteran and Military Resource Center. Richert, who spent five years in the Navy, spread the word. “I’ve fallen down plenty of times in my life and I’ve been blessed enough to have family and friends who helped me back on my feet,” he said. “This just seemed like a good opportunity to support veterans who maybe don’t have that.”
Miranda transferred to UW Tacoma this fall to pursue a degree in social welfare. “My goal is to work with veterans either as a drug and alcohol counselor or through an outreach program with the homeless,” she said.
Miranda’s reasons for wanting to help with the stand down are personal. “There was a time in my life after I retired where I could have been homeless,” she said. Miranda was medically retired from the Army due to a neck injury she sustained while in the military. “I take medication and could have ended up with substance abuse issues.”
All told, the group of staff and students assisted close to 60 homeless veterans. “We take things like boots for granted,” said Richert. “I saw veterans’ faces light up when they got a new pair because that meant their feet would be warm during the winter.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org