Published July 18, 2006
Volume 14, Number 7

Veterans in Need the Focus of East Bay Stand Down Event

The 2006 East Bay Stand Down, an event dedicated to helping veterans in need, is coming to the Alameda County Fairgrounds August 10–13.

The concept behind Stand Down is simple. Over the course of the weekend, representatives from a variety of service agencies make themselves available so that participating veterans can sign up for the benefits and aid to which they are already entitled. Jerry Yahiro, director of East Bay Stand Down and a Viet Nam veteran himself, calls it “one-stop shopping.”

“We bring in all the services that a homeless veteran or even a displaced veteran, not necessarily homeless, might need. We bring in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, for one thing, and they provide medical, dental, and mental health services right there. We also bring in other community services, (such as) homes that offer a combination of rehabilitation and shelter programs together. There are agencies from San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda County, and Contra Costa County. Our goal is to try to get at least 20 percent of the participants into some kind of (support) program immediately after Stand Down.

“It’s estimated that about one third of all homeless people you see are veterans,” adds Yahiro. “Stand Down is a means where we approach the problem and confront it directly, with the possibility of trying to break that cycle of homelessness and despair.”

The Stand Down will also feature a veterans court, where Superior Court judges from several area counties rule on any outstanding warrants the veterans may have incurred. These warrants, which are difficult to resolve for those with no income, often pose a formidable barrier to veterans in need. “What we try to do in the veteran’s court is adjudicate on these warrants so that they are freed from this cloud hanging over their heads,” says Yahiro. The judges will often make an agreement whereby the warrants will be cleared if the veteran will enroll in the appropriate support program. “We’re trying to kill two birds with one stone: one, get him into some kind of a treatment program and two, clear the warrants so there’s no fear of him going into an (aid) agency.”

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of veterans who are in need of the services offered at the Stand Down.

“At the last Stand Down, in 2004, we had several veterans from the first Gulf War, and we anticipate that we will be seeing Afghan and Iraqi veterans this year,” says Yahiro. “The necessity is there to have a Stand Down to get these individuals at an early enough stage where we can help… If we can catch them in the early stages, that’s when we experience the most success.”

For those interested in assisting in the Stand Down’s mission, there are several ways in which to do so. A number of corporate sponsorships are available—this year, AT&T is among the event’s major sponsors—and volunteer opportunities are available as well:

• Individuals, organizations, and companies can purchase, plan, prepare, serve and share a meal with the participating veterans and other volunteers;

• An attorney and tax expert are sought to provide veterans with help clearing nuisance types of tickets, which displaced people often receive, as well as more difficult problems;

• Volunteers with medical certification (nurses, EMTs, technicians, etc.) are also sought;

• A wide variety of other volunteer opportunities are available, doing everything from helping set up the encampment to accounting and IT. A comprehensive list of needed volunteers is available at www.eastbaystanddown.org/volunteer_categories.htm.

For additional information, access www.eastbaystanddown.org or contact Jerry Yahiro, the event’s director, at (925) 743-8850.


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