Homeless Veterans Stand Down

Going into the Veterans' Day weekend, the Houston VA Hospital and several organizations that work with the homeless are co-sponsoring the 7th annual "Stand Down" for homeless veterans today and tomorrow. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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"Stand Down" is a military term for pulling back to rest and regain strength. In this context, homeless veterans are asked to "Stand Down" and come in off the streets, to get help from the various service agencies waiting to help them. Stand Down Coordinator Tom Mitchell says homelessness is a growing problem for veterans, especially combat veterans, and in recent years, among Iraq veterans.

"Two years ago when they did the count, Iraq and Afghanistan vets made up 1.5 percent of the male homeless population. Now in the current count they are five percent."ξξ

Mitchell says most homeless vets have mental problems that are only aggravated by alcohol and drug abuse, and the hardships of life on the streets.ξ Getting them to come in for help isn't easy. They get the word out on the streets, but they often have to go out and find them, and persuade them to come in for the assistance programs.ξξξ

"We have, you know, therapists, and we have substance abuse counselors, we have a mental health program for people with severe mental illness, we have housing and vocational programs, we try and help them get employment."

The 7th annual "Stand Down" for homeless veterans runs through tomorrow at the Midtown Terrace Suites, a former motel at 4640 South Main.ξ Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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