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Identity & Community

Annual Stand Down Veterans Event To Link Vets With Needed Services

For the last several years, a nationwide effort to connect veterans with a multitude of services has been growing; in September Stand Down Pittsburgh is holding its 8th annual event.

“What Stand Down is is the community’s attempt to work with the homeless veteran population, in this case within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and really try to provide respite services as well as connections to potential services that veterans who are homeless or near homeless may not be aware of,” said Jesse Rodriguez, chief development and finance officer with the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.

The event, at Stage AE on the North Shore, puts in one place a wide range of services all in one place.

“Haircuts is one of the most popular,” said Rodriguez. “We have also have members of the local VA who will assess and register any veterans who are eligible for VA healthcare or VA benefits but may not have access to them yet, they’re there to help.”

There will also be dental care, eye services, clothing bank and governmental and nonprofit agencies, among other things.

There are no exact numbers of the region’s homeless veterans, but Rodriguez said the number ebbs and flows; eventually the VLPWP would like it see it at zero. According to the organization’s website, the unemployment rate for young veterans is 69 percent higher than the national unemployment rate, young vets are three times more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts, and Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest population of veterans living below the poverty line.

“Stand down” is an old military term, according to Rodriguez. A stand down was when troops who had been through significant battle were taken off the front lines and provided respite services.

About 150 volunteers are needed for the Sept. 26 event to move supplies, pack food, serve lunch and more. The Stand Down will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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