SU Students Give Vets a Hand Up

2011-09-14
By Catherine Hinrichsen
sambsm
Incoming junior Sam Barrett (Strategic Communications) and more than a dozen other SU students are among those driving Seattle's first large-scale event to help U.S. military veterans experiencing homelessness:  the Stand Down, Thursday, Sept. 15, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College's Mitchell Activity Center, 1718 Broadway.   

Barrett, the Stand Down director, said the event is expected to attract 500 veterans and their families.  Vets will be able to access services from more than 50 organizations and agencies, such as: medical screenings by volunteers from the SU School of Nursing and other medical providers, legal referrals by SU Law School representatives and other legal service providers, access to VA Puget Sound registration, housing and employment services and a myriad of other services. They can even get a haircut and take a shower. 

Among the 150 other volunteers are members of Seattle U's Veterans Committee, who have worked on the organizing committee. 

Housing and homelessness providers are concerned that homelessness among returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will increase, especially among women veterans with children, the fastest-growing homeless population.  “The Stand Down is an important connection to preventive services and other solutions to family homelessness among veterans,” said Barry Mitzman, director of SU's Project on Family Homelessness and professor of strategic communications. 

"Seattle's Stand Down gives us a great opportunity to come together and thank our veterans," Barrett said.  Barrett, who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, is the former president of Seattle Central's Student Veterans Association and a new leader of the SU Veterans Committee.  "Providing these resources can help our veterans achieve what we are all looking for -- respect, security, gainful employment, a home, a warm bed, a meal and the feeling that others care about them. Veterans do not want a hand out; they did not receive them during service, and they do not want them now. However, some veterans do need a 'hand up,' and this is what we hope to provide on Sept. 15."  

"Stand Down" is a military term from the Vietnam War era, which describes safe retreat units where units returning from combat could take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The coalition says that "Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being."  San Diego is the oldest and largest such event in the country. 

For more information about the event, visit: www.seattlestanddown.com