Veterans who are homeless or struggling with other issues can learn about benefits, get legal help, connect to employment and housing opportunities while getting fresh clothes and a hot meal this weekend. end at the fifth annual North County Veterans Stand Down in Vista.
“They gave me hope that there was someone there to help me get back on my feet,” Navy veteran Ramon Madrigal, 42, said of the event, which has started on Thursday.
Madrigal said he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and had been homeless for years. He started attending the North County Stand Down four years ago and has since found housing with the help of Interfaith Community Services and the Homeless Veterans of San Diego. He returned Thursday to volunteer.
“I promised Matt (Foster, president of North County Veterans Stand Down), that when I got back on my feet, I would come and help,” said Madrigal, who was at the event with his 13-year-old Chihuahua mix, Rambo.
The stand down runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sunday at Green Oak Ranch, 1237 Green Oak Road in Vista.
The event is modeled after the withdrawal created by Veterans Villages of San Diego, which has been replicated at sites across the country. Vista’s five-year event is the only other in the county.
Foster, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, was one of the founders of the North County event.
“I found that helping other veterans helped me,” said Foster, the commander of the Foreign War Veterans Post in Escondido.
The North County Veterans Stand Down was last held in February 2020, avoiding the shutdown that began a month later, and drew around 580 people. The San Diego Veterans Village event drew around 700 people when it was last held in November 2019, but was reduced to a one-day event last year due to COVID-19. The VVSD event is slated to return in November.
Notices of the Vista event were posted in various locations across the county, with some posted as far away as Father Joe’s Villages in downtown San Diego. Volunteer-driven vans picked up people from various locations to bring them to the Green Oak Ranch, a private property, which is often used for corporate functions and weekend retreats for churches or other groups .
People arriving in vans were asked to fill out a form asking for their top four goals on the descent. The form also contained a checklist of stations they could visit for clothing, haircuts, medical evaluations, dental care, animal care, art therapy, employment opportunities, pastoral care, education and other aids.
Interfaith Community Services, Homeless Veterans of San Diego, and Veterans Village of San Diego were on hand to help connect people to housing as members of the Elks Lodge of Vista cooked the first of more than 1,000 meals. they would serve over the next few days. Elks Lodges across the county each donated $ 1,500 to help pay for food.
Starting Friday, guests can receive dental treatment and have their vision checked at a tent run by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Healing California, which will provide prescription glasses on site.
In another area, guests could choose shirts, jackets, shoes, pants, and underwear provided by clothing drives organized by area Kiwanis clubs, VFW stations, and Rotary clubs.
“Do you have a size 42 x 32?” Coast Guard veteran David O’Neil asked a window inside one of the park’s buildings. A woman returned shortly with jeans to her waist.
O’Neil, 62, has been homeless on and off for the past few years but has been given housing. He said he was at the booth to receive some services he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford, including new glasses and dental care, but he also signed up to volunteer.
“I’m looking to meet new friends, people who understand each other,” he said. “No matter what branch you come from, you are still brothers.”
Vietnam War veteran Hamin Munin, 69, said he and his wife were homeless but now have an apartment but it’s hard to make ends meet so he was hoping to find out. more on the additional benefits.
“Everyone tells me I could have more, but I was okay,” he said.
Navy veteran Dana Dayutif, 55, came down from San Jose after hearing about the suspension and was planning to stay the weekends in one of the park’s cabins, which can accommodate 250 people. Dayutif said he hoped to get help through the homeless court to settle the $ 26,000 in child support he was facing.
The Escondido Arts Association is offering art therapy at the event for the third year. You can create artwork on canvas or paint baseball caps, shirts or bandanas.
“Personally, I think they leave with a heart full of color and joy,” said Suzanne Nicolaisen of the association. “We don’t teach people art. It’s like a wonderful therapeutic and conversational encounter. I think a lot of people who leave here have a little more confidence in themselves. They seem to come in and say they can’t do it, and when they leave they feel, hey, I’ve accomplished something.