Jill Atwood ReportingThe phrase "stand down" is a military term; for soldiers on the front lines it means rest and medical attention. The war may be long over for many veterans, but every day is still a battle for those homeless on the streets. That's why tomorrow the VA is hosting its own form of stand down.
Tomorrow at the VA medical center they will roll out the red carpet for homeless veterans. They'll each get a little bag full of toiletry items, not to mention invaluable services.
They may be tough to single out, but many of the homeless we see on our city streets every day are war veterans. In fact about 40 percent of our nation's homeless population is made up of veterans. Images of war seared into their minds has, in many cases, led to mental illness and substance abuse, eventual job loss and feelings of worthlessness.
Rich Lendward, V.A. Healthcare Homeless Program: “Very depressed, emotionally numb. Tired, worn out and sad…They don’t feel a part of society. They feel pushed away.”
In Utah there are anywhere from 600 to 1000 homeless veterans at any given time. Tomorrow the hope is they will come to the VA's stand down, an opportunity for the veterans to get off the streets and get some of the services they need.
Terry Schow, Director, Veterans Affairs: "Stand down is a term that originated in Vietnam when the infantry folks would be in the field. They would come in for r and r, if you will, a chance to shower, clean up get medical care, rest a little bit before they had to back out on operations."
Tomorrow veterans will be invited in out of the cold to take showers, talk to people about housing, jobs, medical needs and substance abuse treatment. They can even get a haircut. They'll also get a warm meal and some warm clothes if they need them. But the VA is quick to point out this is just a drop in the bucket.