MC Volunteer Bob Sitzwohl's video “East Bay Stand Down: Forgotten Faces” is live on Youtube and playing on our channels. The video captures a four-day event that takes place every two years at the Alameda Fairgrounds. The Military, the US Department for Veterans Affairs (“VA”), corporate donors and civilian volunteers join forces to stage Stand Downs across America which provide essential services for homeless and at-risk Veterans.
Nationally, estimated numbers for homeless veterans run as high as 250,000. In the Bay Area, the VA reports that 7000 veterans are living on the street. In addition to providing food, showers, shelter, clothing and new personal items like backpacks, the Veterans receive dental, medical and psychological services. Posted signs state “There Will No Arrests Made At The Stand Down.” Insuring a safe experience is an important guarantee for homeless veterans, many of whom, not surprisingly, suffer from PTSD. Social workers, financial advisors, lawyers and even county judges are on the spot to advise and in many instances provide immediate solutions to problems such as debt relief, clearing up misdemeanors, driver's license renewal and finding permanent housing and jobs. Bob points out that on their own veterans don’t know where to begin to resolve financial or legal issues that keep them out of the work force. By bringing judges for 8 of the 9 Bay Area counties to the Stand Down, veterans receive immediate relief.
Organizers of EBSD do not understand why San Mateo has declined to send judges since the program’s inception in 1999. Vets with legal problems in San Mateo County do receive legal advice but are unable to get on-site assistance from a judge in clearing up their record. Other than that, Bob said it was amazing to see how quickly and efficiently all these people coming together could solve problems that seem insurmountable to a Vet. That is the miracle of the Stand Down.
Bob has personal reasons for his involvement. He is a Veteran and he was homeless in the mid to late seventies. He came out of the Navy disillusioned and lost. Bob says that he can relate to homeless vets: “Most of them really don’t understand how they came to be homeless or why they are homeless, whether it’s through loss of loved ones, PTSD or they went in broken and came out even more broken. It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. I want people to empathize with homeless veterans. They did all they could to protect us. It’s time for us to honor that contract.”
Written by Becky Sanders
To learn more about East Bay Stand Down visit: http://eastbaystanddown.org or feel free to collar Bob in the hallways when he's volunteering here at your local cable access TV station.